Monday, November 29, 2010

Chipotle Pumpkin Soup

My husband requested more pumpkin soup.  He really wanted the Thai-spiced soup, but I convinced him to let me try a new version.  This one was yet another deliciously wonderful way to add pumpkin to your diet (and spicy with only one pepper), but it still took second place.  

2 Tbsp olive oil 
1 medium yellow onion, chopped 
3 garlic cloves, chopped 
1 teaspoon ground cumin 
1-2 chipotle peppers (canned in adobo, chopped 
8 cups chopped, cooked pumpkin* (1 7-8 pound cooking pumpkin to yield 8 cups cooked pumpkin, or 3 15-ounce cans of canned pumpkin) 
4 to 6 cups chicken stock, depending on desired thickness and how thick your pumpkin purée is
1 teaspoon dried oregano or 1/2 teaspoon ground oregano 
2 teaspoons salt, more to taste 
2 Tbsp lime juice
    Toasted, shelled pumpkin seeds
    Creme fresca, creme fraiche or sour cream thinned with a little water so that it's runny
      *To cook fresh pumpkin, use a good cooking pumpkin (i.e. sugar pumpkin, fairytale pumpkin, hubbard, or kabocha pumpkin), cut in half, scoop out the seeds, place the pumpkin cut side down on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for about an hour, or until soft. Scoop out the pumpkin flesh or cut away the skin. Let cool. Freeze for long term storage.

      Heat oil in a large pot (8-quart) on medium high heat. Add the onions and cook for 3-4 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic, cumin, and chipotle, cook for 1 minute more.

      Add the pumpkin, chicken stock, oregano, and salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, partially covered.

      If you are working with raw pumpkin seeds, now would be a good time to toast them. (If your pumpkin seeds are already toasted, skip this step.) Just spread them out in an even layer in a frying pan on medium high heat. Stir with a wooden spoon while toasting, until the pumpkin seeds are fragrant and are lightly browned. Remove to a bowl.

      Remove the soup from heat. Working in batches of 2 cups each, purée the soup in batches, holding down the lid the your blender tightly while puréeing, and starting on a slow speed. Return the puréed soup to the pot.

      Add lime juice. Adjust seasonings to taste, adding more salt, cumin, oregano, or chipotle to taste. If the soup is too thick, add more stock or water to desired consistency.

      Serve with toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas), crema fresca drizzled over the top, and chopped cilantro.
      Makes 2 to 2 1/2 quarts. 

      Saturday, November 27, 2010

      Turkey Leftovers

      I hope you all enjoyed feasting while focusing on all we have to be grateful for.  We've just about cleaned up all the leftovers save the turkey.  What is it about the Thanksgiving meal that I don't mind eating more every day (both lunch and dinner!) until it's gone?!  I chose a big bird this year so we were sure to have plenty of leftovers!  Last year, this was one of my favorite uses of the leftover meat.  I'll be trying out this one next week and will let you know how that turns out.  What are you doing with your leftovers (if you still have any!)?

      Wednesday, November 24, 2010

      Pumpkin Bread

      This is my Gramma's recipe and I've not found another that compares.  It's a great way to start a day of Thanksgiving, which is what I'll be doing tomorrow - Happy Thanksgiving!

      1 cup pumpkin puree
      3 cups sugar
      1 cup oil
      2/3 cup water
      4 eggs
      3 1/2 cups flour
      2 teaspoons baking soda
      1 1/2 teaspoons salt
      1 teaspoons cinnamon
      1 teaspoon nutmeg
      1/2 cup pecans, chopped

      Grease and flour 2 large loaf pans.  Preheat oven to 350.
      Mix sugar and oil together in a large bowl.  Add eggs and pumpkin then mix.  Lastly, add water and mix until batter pulls together.
      Combine all the dry ingredients (except nuts) together in a separate bowl.  Then gradually add dry mixture to the wet ingredients.  Gently stir in nuts.
      Pour an even amount of batter into each loaf pan.
      Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, then rotate loaf pans and turn oven down to 325.  Bake for 40 minutes.  Let bread cool in pans for 1 hour before slicing and serving.

      Monday, November 22, 2010

      Easy Slow-Cooker Thai Beef

      Yes, this is pretty much as far away from Meatless Monday as you can get!  I'm letting myself off the hook during the holidays.  We'll still have meatless meals, but I'm not going to worry about them happening every Monday.  So we'll move on.  This is one of my favorite sites for crock pot ideas.  I used her picture for this post as well as the recipe.  It was, indeed, super easy.  I wasn't blown away by the taste, though.  I should have made my own peanut satay sauce (here's my favorite recipe), and I would suggest going all out and using coconut cream instead of milk to get a more rich flavor.

      2 pounds beef chuck roast
      1 (8-ounce) bottle peanut satay sauce 
      1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk (full fat is best)
      1 (16-ounce) package baby carrots
      cooked basmati rice for serving
      1/4 cup chopped peanuts for garnish (optional)

      Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Put the beef into the bottom of your cooker, and add the peanut sauce and the whole can of coconut milk.  Flip the meat over a few times to get it good and saucy. Add baby carrots. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or until meat is fork-tender and pretty much falls apart. Stir well to distribute sauce, and serve over hot rice.
      Garnish with a sprinkle of peanuts, if you'd like.

      Saturday, November 20, 2010

      Shrimp Salad with Lime-Buttermilk Dressing

      I thought this recipe from Everyday Foods turned out a wonderful salad.  The dressing was more than enough for our family.

      3/4 cup buttermilk
      1 avocado, halved, pitted and peeled
      1 tsp lime zest, plus 1/4 cup lime juice (from 2 limes)
      salt and pepper
      1 Tbsp vegetable oil
      1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
      3 hearts romaine lettuce, coarsely chopped
      1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
      1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

      In a blender, combine buttermilk, avocado, lime zest and juice, and 2 tablespoons water.  Blend until smooth, 20 seconds.  Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

      In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high.  Season shrimp with salt and pepper.  Cook until opaque throughout, about 3 minutes, flipping once.  In a large bowl, toss together romaine, pumpkin seeds, cilantro, shrimp, and 1 cup dressing until combined and serve immediately.

      Dressing can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days.

      Friday, November 19, 2010

      Shortbread Candy Bars

      These were rich and delicious.  I liked the Reese's Pieces better than the M&Ms, but both went very well with a glass of milk! 

      Makes 16 bars
      1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
      3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
      1-1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
      2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
      1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
      2 cups assorted chocolate candies or roughly chopped candy bars (12 ounces)

      Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar, and salt on medium-high until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. With mixer on low, add flour in three additions and beat until combined (dough will be crumbly). Press dough evenly into an 8-inch square baking dish. Bake until golden brown and firm, 30-35 minutes.

      Scatter chocolate chips on top of shortbread. Bake until soft, 1 minute. With the back of a spoon, spread chocolate evenly over shortbread. Scatter candies over top. Let cool on a wire rack 30 minutes. Refrigerate briefly to set chocolate, then cut into 16 bars. (Store in an airtight container, at room temperature, up to 4 days.)

      Recipe from Everyday Foods.

      Wednesday, November 17, 2010

      White Nut Nana

      This is a little creation using one of my most favorite kitchen tools - the Vita Mix!  I'll post the original Nut Nana some other time, but I like the white version better.

      1/2 - 1 cup milk (start with 1/2 cup and use more if your blender sounds like it's struggling)
      1/2 cup vanilla or plain yogurt
      *1 Tbsp honey (I only add this if I use plain yogurt)
      1/2 to 1 whole frozen banana (when my bananas are looking less-than-appetizing, I peel them, break them into pieces, and freeze them in a baggie for future smoothie-making)
      1 large spoonful peanut butter
      1/4 cup wheat germ
      6-12 small ice cubes

      Put everything in your blender and go to town!  Mmmmm . . .

      Saturday, November 13, 2010

      Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins

      This is my favorite pumpkin recipe of the season (thus far - we're not done yet!).  Whoa, these are super good.  Everyday Food gave them the perfect name.  The texture is like a caked doughnut, but they are still moist and fluffy enough to be a muffin.  And, while the muffin isn't that sweet, they are rolled in butter, cinnamon, and sugar!  Be sure to make these when you know other people will help you eat them, not only because they aren't diet friendly, but they also don't stay good for more than two days.

      Makes 12

      For the Batter:
      10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
      3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
      2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
      1/4 teaspoon baking soda
      1 teaspoon coarse salt
      1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
      1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
      1/3 cup buttermilk
      1 1/4 cups pure pumpkin puree
      3/4 cup light-brown sugar
      2 large eggs

      For the Sugar Coating:
      3/4 cup granulated sugar
      2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
      1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

      Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour 12 standard muffin cups.  Make batter.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and allspice.  In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk and pumpkin puree.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed.  With mixer on low, add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions pumpkin mixture and beat to combine.

      Spoon 1/3 cup batter into each muffin cup and bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine granulated sugar and cinnamon.  Let muffins cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack.  Working with one at a time, remove muffins from pan, brush all over with butter, then toss to coat in sugar mixture.  Let muffins cool completely on a wire rack.

      Friday, November 12, 2010

      Orange-Ginger Sweet Potato Casserole

      Here is a fantastic idea for your Thanksgiving table.  I made this last year for our Christmas dinner and we loved it, so it will be making another appearance in two weeks. 

      4 sweet potatoes, scrubbed 
      1 tablespoon orange zest 
      2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger root 
      2 egg yolks 
      salt and ground black pepper to taste 
      1/4 cup orange juice, or to taste 
      1/2 cup 2% low-fat milk 
      1/3 cup chopped pecans 

      Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Place oven rack in middle position. Lightly grease a 1 1/2 quart baking dish, and set aside.  

      Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Pierce each sweet potato several times with a fork, and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Roast the sweet potatoes in preheated oven until easily pierced with a fork, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Remove sweet potatoes from the oven, and cool about 15 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).  

      When sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut in half, and scoop flesh into the bowl of a food processor. Discard potato skins. Add the orange zest, ginger; and egg yolks; process to make a smooth mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour in the orange juice and milk; if desired, add more orange juice to taste. Spoon sweet potato mixture into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle top with pecans.  

      Bake in preheated oven until heated through and pecans are toasted, about 30 minutes. 

      *photo found here

          Wednesday, November 10, 2010

          Braised Beef with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

          I was excited to see this recipe on Jessie's blog (I stole her picture!)  - it looked so good . . . and it is.  So good.  It's more like a stew.  I made it on Saturday for our family and decided to scrap my other plans and make it again on Tuesday night for our community group.  It was a hit.  For the first batch, I brought everything to a boil and then dumped it in the crock pot to simmer on low for five hours.  The second batch I did as directed.  I didn't notice a difference.

          2 teaspoons olive oil
          2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
          2 medium onions, vertically sliced
          2 garlic cloves, minced
          1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
          1 3/4 cups water
          1 cup dry red wine
          1 cup less-sodium beef broth
          1 cup sun-dried tomato halves, packed without oil, cut into strips (about 2 1/2 ounces) If you can't find the kind without oil, at least rinse the tomatoes a bit to remove as much oil as possible to keep the stew from being super oily
          1 tablespoon brown sugar
          1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
          1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
          3/4 teaspoon salt
          1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
          1 bay leaf
          1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

          1. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add beef; cook 4 minutes, browning on all sides. Add sliced onion; cook for 7 minutes or until onion is softened, stirring occasionally. Add minced garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in flour; cook 2 minutes, stirring often.

          2. Stir in water and next 9 ingredients (through bay leaf). Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer 1 hour. Uncover and simmer 30 minutes or until beef is tender. Discard bay leaf. Sprinkle each serving with parsley.

          Monday, November 8, 2010

          Meatless Monday - Orzo Pasta Salad

          This is one of my favorite things to bring to a shower.  It's simple, is easy to present well, and has subtle flavors that are pleasing to most.  There are lots of different options with what you can throw in.  Fresh basil looks prettier in the bowl and rounds out the color scheme a bit.  You could also add diced cucumbers or substitute slivered almonds for the pine nuts.

          olive oil
          1 box orzo pasta, cooked as directed
          2-3 bell peppers, chopped
          6oz. crumbled feta
          15-20 pitted kalamata olives, cut in half
          1/4 cup fresh basil, sliced, or 1 tsp. dried basil
          1/2 - 1 tsp. salt
          1/4 - 1/2 tsp. pepper

          1/3 cup toasted pine nuts

          Cook orzo as directed on box.  Rinse in cold water, strain, then dump pasta in large mixing bowl.  Throw on a few splashes of olive oil and stir.  You don't want the pasta to be glumpy or sticky.  Add more oil if necessary.  Throw everything else in the bowl except the pine nuts.  You'll probably need to play around with the amount of salt, pepper, and basil.  Just mix things in until it tastes good to you!  Top with a few shakes of basil, slivers of bell pepper, and the pine nuts.  

          Saturday, November 6, 2010

          Pumpkin Flan Flop

          You wouldn't think by looking at the dish it was a flop since we managed to eat over half the dessert in just two days (with the help of some friends, of course!), but this post is to assure you that not everything in the Payne kitchen turns out the way I want it to.  I'm not even going to post the recipe for this one because, although it tasted good, it was nothing like flan.  Imagine pumpkin pie without the crust.  Delicious, sure, but certainly not flan.  It was probably user error, but I couldn't get past step 2, so I finally just scrapped it all and fumbled my way to the end of a dessert that wasn't all that bad, but not anything like what I was going for.  Take a look for yourself here and please let me know if you figure it out!

          Thursday, November 4, 2010

          Rotisserie Chicken

          I tried out this idea from Our Best Bites.  It was a mighty fine tasting bird, but I wouldn't go so far as to say it was a fair replacement for the real deal rotisserie stuff.  My garlic was MIA when I was getting everything ready, so that could have upped the flavor a bit.  Either way, it was delicious and easy and fun to try something a bit different with the crock pot.

          1 whole chicken, small enough to fit in your slow cooker
          Salt-based seasoning (Seasoning salt, Cajun seasoning, lemon pepper with salt in it, etc. Just make sure salt is one of the first ingredients on the label.)
          Whole garlic cloves, peeled
          fresh herbs

          Make 3 balls of aluminum foil and place them in the bottom of your slow cooker. These hold the chicken off the bottom so the hot air can circulate all around the chicken and so it's not stewing in its own juices.

          Rinse chicken, including the cavity, and pat dry with paper towels. Place the chicken on its back so the breast is facing up and the legs are on the plate. If you want (and I actually strongly recommend that you do UNLESS you're looking for a neutral flavor), pull the skin up all around the chicken.  Slice a few garlic cloves in half lengthwise and stick them under the skin. You can also arrange a couple sprigs of fresh herbs, like rosemary, thyme, and/or sage under the skin. This makes a very pretty chicken when it's all cooked and adds a lot of flavor.

          Rub salt-based seasoning VERY liberally onto the skin of the chicken. Place chicken breast-up on the foil in the slow cooker, cover, turn heat to low, and leave it alone for 7-8 hours.

          Tuesday, November 2, 2010

          Candy Corn and Peanuts

          Here's an idea for all that 50% off candy you'll see in the stores this week.  Candy corn and peanuts.  It's as delicious as it is simple!  Weight Watchers claims it's a good alternative for a Snickers craving.  I just say it's addicting!  1:2 candy corn to peanut ratio is my "perfect bite" and I prefer dry roasted peanuts instead of spanish style, which is what I had on hand this time.

          Monday, November 1, 2010

          Meatless Monday - Italian Chickpea Soup

          I like eating soup out of big mugs.  Especially big mugs I got on my honeymoon!  This soup from Vegetarian Times wasn't my favorite.  I think it was a texture thing for.  But was plenty of flavor and my 10-month-old daughter loved it!

          4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
          1 medium onion, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
          3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
          1 small bay leaf
          1 tsp. dried thyme
          1 tsp. dried oregano
          1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
          2 16-oz. cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
          2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (6 cups)
          1 stalk celery, finely diced (1/2 cup)
          1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
          1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus a few sprigs for garnish

          Bring broth, onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, cayenne pepper, and 2 cups water to a boil in large saucepan over medium heat. Simmer 5 minutes. Add chickpeas, sweet potatoes, celery, and mustard, and simmer 10 to 12 minutes more, or until vegetables are very soft.

          Mash vegetables and chickpeas to chunky purée with potato masher or large spoon. (Chickpeas will remain mostly whole.) Stir in parsley, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Garnish each serving with parsley sprig (or use feta like I did!).
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