Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup with Marsala & Thyme ~ 11.30.10

There's just nothing like a hot bowl of soup and a sandwich. My favorite weekend meal and my favorite any day of the week meal. Yes, I do believe I could eat soup and a sandwich or salad everyday. There are endless possibilities.

The following recipe was clipped from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette sometime in the past few years, maybe more (note to self: start writing the date of the paper on the recipe!). I love butternut squash. So healthy and hearty and filling! And I can not resist that bright orange color when you cut into it- GORGEOUS!

This soup came together quickly with one of my pantry staples: bacon grease from the fridge! No need to defrost a whole pound of bacon or even run to the store. The grease is what was needed to build the flavors in this soup and get the onions tender. If you're vegetarian, you could by all means swap out your favorite sauteeing oil. I do think the fresh thyme was a bonus. I have had my thyme plant sitting outside for a few years now and it never lets me down. One of my all time favorite herbs and it's so hardy through the winter!

Enjoy this lovely soup.

Butternut Squash Soup with Marsala and Thyme

1 butternut squash, about 3 lbs (3 3/4 cup cooked), halved lengthwise, fibers and seeds removed
6 slices of bacon (alternatively, I used bacon grease that I just keep in a container in my fridge!)
2 large yellow onions, chopped
1 1/2Tbs chopped fresh thyme or 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
5 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (I used a quart container I had in the freezer of homemade)
1/3 cup heavy cream or half and half
3 Tbs dry marsala or dry sherry (I used 1 Tbs sherry)
pinch of cayenne (forgot that part)
S & P
Fresh thyme leaves for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place squash cut sides down in a large baking dish. Add water to pan to a 1/4 inch depth and bake until tender. About 50 minutes
Remove from oven and let cool a bit. Scrape out the flesh.
In a large saucepan, over medium heat, cook bacon until the fat is rendered, about 3 minutes. Add the onions and thyme, saute until tender and remove from heat.

(here is where I deviated from original instructions. I have an immersion blender- best purchase I made this fall- and I just threw all the ingredients into the pot after I sauteed the onion and thyme and then gave it a nice whirr)

Transfer onion mixture to a food processor or blender- In 2 or more batches, add the squash and puree until smooth. Return the puree to the saucepan and over medium low heat- mix in the broth. Simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cream or half and half and the marsala or sherry. Add the cayenne and S&P. IF the soup is too thick, thin with additional stock to desired consistenc.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped fresh thyme leaves.

Serve hot. 8-10. (I got 2 full quart containers from my ONE butternut squash. It was a medium sized squash, too!)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pumpkin & Pecan Pie ~ 11. 29.10

(all the pies lined up and waiting for little fingers to poke them)

When my Aunt Lynn passed away a few years ago, I was dubbed the "Pie maker" at our Thanksgiving celebrations. A role I take quite seriously. I only make one version of pumpkin pie- Libby's recipe off the can! Are you surprised? Hope not,it is as easy as, well, pie to make! After the crust, it literally takes just minutes to throw a pumpkin pie together and the aroma that fills your house is well worth that time!

The last time I made pie crust, the recipe made 2 rounds, so I took one and formed it into my pie pan and threw it in a zippy bag and popped it in the freezer. That made my Thanksgiving morning pie prep super easy this year! It was an ALL butter crust! WHOA baby. I needed to try something a little different for my pecan pie.

I had clipped a pie crust recipe from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette a few months back and decided to give it a go. It was an all shortening pie crust and was so supposed to be very easy to make and didn't need to chill before being rolled out into crust. I was game for a simple recipe like that. I used the pie crust recipe for my pecan pie.

Speaking of pecan pie, how about another simple pie to make? I mean these two are really quite easy. Good pecans can be quite expensive but we are talking about the holidays and it's hard to have Thanksgiving or Christmas without pumpkin and pecan pie! Holidays are meant to be special and a bit indulgent anyway.

Enjoy our pie traditions!

(I love how pumpkin pie cracks in the middle after you knife test it- makes it feel all homemade)

Libby's Famous Pumpkin Pie

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
2 large eggs
15 oz 100% pure pumpkin
1 can evaporated milk
1 unbaked deep dish pie crust

Mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.
Beat eggs in a large bowl.
Stir pumpkin and sugar and spice mixture.
Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

Pour into pie shell- always place your pie tin on a baking sheet just in case of overflow!

Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes.
Reduce temp to 350 degrees and bake 40-50 minutes or until knife comes out clean.
Cool 2 hours. serve immediately or refrigerate.

(My aunt advised not to freeze this pie as the crust and filling will separate.)

Miriam Parker's Pie Crust
clipped from the Pgh Post Gazette
makes a double crust pie 9-inch

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup shortening
7 Tbs cold water (I add ice)

I combined the first 3 ingredients right in my food processor. Pulsed to combine- until shortening was incorporated into crumbles. Then through the shoot, I added the water, one at a time until the dough came together nicely. Alternately, you can combine the first 3 ingredients in a large bowl using 2 knives to cut the shortening into the flour. Sprinkle 2 Tbs of water and toss with a fork until you've incorporated all 7 Tbs. Form into a ball.

Divide the dough in half- put some flour on your work surface and rolling pin- and roll out the dough from the center to the edge to create the crust. Repeat for the top crust.

No need to refrigerate this dough as it's so easy to roll out and very flaky once baked!**see note

Now that you have your pie dough all ready to go, make this delicious pecan pie!

(was trying to get a little artsy with my acorns made out of extra pie dough)

Aunt Lynnie's Pecan Pie

2/3 cup karo syrup
1 cup dark brown sugar (I use light cause that's what I always have on hand)
1/3 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla

Mix the above ingredients well, then add:

3 whole eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup peans- heaping cup - mix with above and pour into your pie crust

If you think it needs a few more pecans, go ahead and add them- I often do. You can leave them whole or chop them roughly. Your call!

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-55 minutes. It should be 200 degrees in the center of the pie. You'll know when it's done just by looking at it, right? I never take it's temperature, but it was part of the family recipe so I wrote it down!

**While Miriam's dough was tremendously easy, I was not loving how it didn't brown at all. I'm going to have to listen to my mum and just make her pie dough recipe. Why it's taken me sooooo long to listen, I don't know!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Frozen Pumpkin Dessert (with Gingersnap Crust)~ 11.20.10

I have a tendency to buy cookbooks and then only make a few of the recipes contained within them. Anyone else do that? I bought a copy of Don't Panic- Dinner's in the Freezer a few years back and I have about a dozen or so of the pages dog-eared but I think I've only made one or two recipes! But in my defense, they were worth buying the book for because this dessert is a real winner and it makes a LOT! She tells you to make it in a 9x13 pan, but I chose to make mine into pies. She also uses a graham cracker crust in the original recipe, but I had gingersnaps and the swap out was AMAZING that I couldn't go back to graham crackers. ALL that said, I'm writing this as the original recipe states so that you can see that it's okay to use what you've got and to be creative with your ingredients!

Frozen Pumpkin Dessert
Don't Panic: Dinner's in the Freezer
Makes 24 servings

2 cups canned pumpkin
1 cup sugar
1 t salt
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg (I go easy on the nutmeg)
1 cup chopped pecans (I've skipped in the past)
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream, softened

Graham Cracker Crust** (see note at bottom)
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I used Gingersnap cookies)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar

Prepare graham cracker crust by mixing crust ingredients and patting into a 9x13 pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely. (chilling would not be a bad idea)

In large bowl, combine pumpkin, sguar, salt, spices, and nuts. Fold in ice cream. Pour pumpkin mixture into pan. Seal top of pan with plastic wrap and then foil. Freeze until firm.

Gingersnap crust-
I discovered a recipe in my Aunt's filebox for a PUmpkin Ice Cream Pie with Gingersnap Crust. Seems as though great minds think alike! Here is her recipe for making the gingersnap crust, you'll want to adjust the sugar and increase amounts to make it for a 9x13 pan. Her recipe made a crust for a 10 inch pie pan.
1 1/2 cups gingersnaps, crushed
1 Tbs sugar
1/4 cup butter melted

Mix together. Press into pie pan and bake at 300 degreese 12-15 minutes. Cool, then chill.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Must try these soon! ~ 11.19.10

So I'm trying to go to bed but my tummy is being tempted by all the wonderful little goodies out there in the bloggity world! Too many yummy foods being made and so as to not annoy Mr. Crafty in the morning when he comes down to finalize his line-up for the day... I need to close out some windows. I thought I'd put all the foods I'm thinking of right here for YOU to salivate over all day.

I saved this recipe in my files last year and never got around to making it, but I think I really must make it for the teachers at school. I try and remember them often and thank them with little treats: Cinnamon Bun Caramel Corn

She had me at pumpkin- I think I'm adventurous enough to try this ingredient in just about anything, okay, maybe not, but Pumpkin Chili sounds delightful! I always use ground turkey anymore, but I have all of the ingredients on her list and they're just waiting to be put together in my slow cooker for a quick meal THIS week!

This is so fun and after the huge success of the mini-candy coated apples, I think this will knock the kid's socks right off! Apple "nachos" are simple enough for a fun after school celebratory snack!

I have a go-to Sloppy Joe recipe, but I'm reconsidering it (it's a bit on the sweet side and a bit time consuming) and think I'll give this one a whirl. Love the addition of cinnamon in it! Plus this blog looks so fun, I must browse around it sometime!

And none of the above would have happened if I hadn't been hunting down this recipe for Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad (actually, I just want the dressing recipe).

Now, off to bed with dreams of all things foodie!

BONUS: I just saw this one on my sidebar and after my encounter with the amazing Rice Pudding at the Greek Festival this summer, I think I really would like to try making Portuguese Rice Pudding. mmmm... I can almost taste it! Would have NEVER thought I'd like rice pudding until it was introduced to me with the flavor of cinnamon. HOOKED!

And I made a recipe of Pumpkin Nutella bread this weekend- it was yummy! Be on the lookout for that recipe soon!

Southwest Stuffed Peppers ~ 11.19.10

This recipe hails from my cousin, Karen, who is a foodie like myself. In fact, she, too, has a wonderful food blog that I think you should check out: Farmhouse Foodie.

She made these stuffed peppers one summer and I was an instant fan. I make my own version of an enchilada sauce that I found via Creatively Domestic and combined it with my cousin's recipe. I really recommend you just make it yourself, it's so simple to throw together and it's definitely more economical.  I swap out a few extra ingredients and use one jar of Tastefully Simple's Corn, Black Bean Salsa. You can adjust the heat on these according to your family. I've been making it with a bit more kick each time I throw it together!

Southwest Stuffed Peppers
from my cousin, Karen DiPasquale

6 large red peppers (I just buy the red/orange/yellow asst. at Sam's club)- you can cut these the way you like, I prefer cut crosswise and cored. I have steamed them to remove some liquid but it's not a necessary step
1 pkg sweet turkey sausage: browned and crumbled- you buy the links and squeeze out the sausage from the casing- flatten it and saute until browned and cooked through
8 oz pkg corn bread stuffing
8 oz Monterey Jack cheese (or Pepper Jack for more heat)
1/2 can chicken broth (the last time I made this I added beef broth by accident- it was FINE!)
1 jar Tastefully Simple Corn, Black Bean Salsa (or any store brand you like OR 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes; 1/2 can black beans;1 cup frozen corn)

Combine all in a large bowl. Scoop into peppers. Pour a little sauce on the bottom of 9x13 pan and then add filled peppers. Pour sauce over the top of peppers and bake covered for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, Uncover and bake 30 minutes more. Can add additional sprinkling of cheese at the end.

Enchilada Sauce:
1 Tbs veg oil
1 onion, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 of a chili (from chiles in adobo sauce can)
2 tsp cumin
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp sugar
1 large can tomato sauce (you can add an additional small can and it will give you extra sauce to freeze or to have to reheat these)
1/2 cup water

Cook onion and garlic in veg oil. Add spices and stir and coat the onion- about 30 sec. Stir in tomato sauce and water. Simmer until warmed through and slightly thickened- about 5 minutes. Season with S &P.

These are great served with Lime Cilantro Rice and an ice cold beer!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Homemade Creamy Hummus ~ 11.17.10

Making your own hummus is such a good trick to have in your back pocket. You only need to have a few pantry staples on hand to throw this together in minutes!
I found this recipe in an issue of Cook's Illustrated and took their recommendation on what brand of tahini to buy as well.
Most hummus recipes that I love have tahini as the star ingredient (next to the chickpeas, that is). Tahini looks like peanut butter but is ground sesame seed paste. CI recommended Joyva or Krinos brand tahinis. I found the Krinos at Market District Giant Eagle for about 6.99 a bottle. I'll probably get at least 4 hummus recipes out of that one bottle, so it's well worth buying your own and making it in the food processor.
They also gave recommendations on which brand of chick peas/garbanzo beans to buy. Pastene came highly recommended and in second place, Goya.

Restaurant Style Hummus
This recipe would be great with homemade Pita Chips!

3 Tbs juice from 1-2 lemons
1/4 cup water
6 tbs tahini, stirred well (that equals 1/2 cup, why they don't say that, I'm not sure)
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 (14oz) can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and picked through- I took out the "skins"
1 small garlic clove, minced (about 1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
pinch cayenne
1 Tbs minced fresh cilantro or parsley (optional)
paprika (optional)

1. Combine lemon juice and water in a small bowl. Whisk together the tahini and 2 Tbs oil in second bowl. Set aside 2 Tbs. chickpeas for garnish.
2. Process remaning chickpeas, garlic, salt, cumin, and cayenne in food processor until amost fully ground. Scrape down bowl with spatula. With machine running, add lemon juice/water mixture through feed tube. Scrape down bowl and continue to process for 1 minute. With machine running, add tahini mixture in steady stream through feed tube; continue to process until smooth and creamy, about 15 seconds.
3. Transfer hummus to serving bowl, sprinkle with chickpeas and cilantro, cover with plastic wrap and let flavors meld, at least 30 minutes. drizzle with olive oil and serve.

- if you're holding this over for awhile, reserve garnishes until ready to serve. I was transporting my hummus the day I took the pic and didn't want EVOO all over the place, so I just garnished with a little paprika and the chickpeas.
-keeps up to 5 days in fridge. If too thick, add a Tbs of warm water and mix well before serving.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Creamy mushroom toasts ~ 11.10.10

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

oh good grief, can you tell I'm a mom of 4 boys?

Let me start over...

A long ways back, I happened upon this simple little recipe. It is just the perfect little treat for a late dinner or when you need a comforting happy belly sort of lunch.

It's quick to throw together and forgiving in that as long as you use the main ingredients of mushrooms, cream and toast... you're golden.

I'm eating it right now and had to pour myself a glass of wine (b/c I'm cooking something with it and well, Julia Child would do that, right?) to go along with it. It's a classy yet simple kind of meal.

Buon Appetit!

Creamy Mushroom Toasts
adapted from Angry Chicken
Like I said up above, this is forgiving, so if you don't have shallots, don't fret, I've made it without them. And if you don't have fresh herbs, use a little dried. Just stick to the main stuff: mushrooms, butter, cream, good crusty bread. You'll thank me.

8oz button mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp or so of butter
fresh herbs chopped: I like thyme and parsley
half a shallot, minced fine
S & P
heavy cream- couple Tbsp's
crusty bread
optional: Adobo seasoning (I just have to put it on everything!)

Heat a saute pan and get your butter in there and melted. (if you're using shallots, add them at this point and saute until translucent- I didn't have them today) Add the sliced mushrooms and don't crowd the pan or mess with them too much. You want them to get good and toasty on one side before you push them around. After about 5 minutes or so, stir the mushrooms around and season with S & P and some Adobo seasoning, if you'd like. S&P is just fine, too. Now, add some chopped herbs and a couple Tbs of cream. I do not measure this, just eyeball it a bit and add some till my mushrooms are swimming in a pool of cream and happy as can be. Happy mushrooms = Happy Crafty. Cream = Very happy Crafty!

Taste and adjust seasoning.
Slice your bread and toast to perfection.
Serve your creamy mushrooms alongside the toast and pour yourself a glass of wine. Enjoy!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins ~ 11.5.10

I know I have mentioned before my love for the book, Cupcakes from the Doctor, but in case you missed out on that... hear me now... I LOVE THIS COOKBOOK. Go treat yourself and pick it up, will you? Because several of my favorite recipes are tucked inside it. I go to it all the time and I went to it yesterday to make a simple  ridiculously simple pumpkin chocolate chip muffin recipe.

The secret ingredient is Chocolate Chip Muffin Mix. I happened upon a box of Martha White 17.9 (or so) oz.  They were incredible! I have used other mixes before, but I'll be on the lookout for the blue box of Martha White Muffin mixes in the future!

This is so quick you'll have hot and delicious muffins ready to warm the bellies of all those you love in no time flat!

Pumpkin Muffins with chocolate chips

1 pkg chocolate chip muffin mix
1 cup canned PUMPKIN
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (if you don't have that- mix 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ginger, 1/8 tsp allspice or cloves and 1/8 tsp nutmeg and then use HALF  of that in these muffins)
optional: extra chocolate chips

Prehat your oven to 400. Line your muffin tins with papers or spray them with veg oil spray.

Place the muffin mix in a large bowl and take a whisk to it a couple of turns. Sometimes there are large clumps in boxed mixes and I find this step helps with incorporating all the ingredients later.

Make a well in the dry mix and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix until combined- about 20 strokes. Don't go all crazy on your batter, you want it just mixed and you don't want to beat the heck out of it!

Using a measuring cup or a handy dandy ice cream scoop (my favorite tool!), fill your muffin cups three quarters of the way full. Add a few more chocolate chips on top of each- everyone loves a little extra chocolate on top, right?

Pop them in the oven and bake about 18-21 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. If it has chocolate on it, get another and test another spot!

Cool on wire racks and then eat them up or place in a ziplock bag in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the fridge or pop your frozen muffin in the toaster oven to thaw!

MUFFIN TIP--- the last time I made these I got 14 muffins instead of 12. Do you know the trick to baking those 2 little extra muffins in that BIG 'OL 12 cup muffin tin? Just add your extra liners to the pan and then scoop in your batter. Then carefully add a little water to the remaining EMPTY muffin cups. This will prevent burning and allow for even cooking of the muffins throughout!