Friday, October 24, 2014

Sweet 'n' Salty Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

TGIF, right?  I know I am feeling good that the weekend is almost here. I love staying busy, but I am always happy when Saturday come and I get to wake up with my little guy with no care to rush out the door to work.  This weekend I am especially looking forward to the Zoo Boo at our local zoo.  We have gone the past few years with our family, and it keep getting more and more fun. The kids are all at a really fun age right now, and love the different activities. 

Remember pumpkin hating husband (Ron)?? Well, he actually likes roasted pumpkin seeds! When I was getting ready to roast the seeds he leaned in and said "oooo I like pumpkin seeds". My jaw promptly hit the floor and I went about my business.  I like plain roasted seeds, but decided to give them a little face lift with sugar, cinnamon and a little sea salt. These are a perfect for a quick snack or, in our case, a little extra treat for a  Packer tailgate. These pumpkin seeds are worth a try, and are a delicious alternative to the standard salt roasted. I love that the possibilities are endless with roasting seeds....and that my husband actually likes something with the word pumpkin in it!

Have a great weekend and Go Pack!


Ingredients

2 cups pumpkin seeds, cleaned, rinsed and patted dry
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon sugar
1 tsp sea salt


Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 125 degrees (this is for drying. If seeds are dry pre-heat to 275 degrees).  Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside.

If pumpkin seeds are not dry arrange them on the baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes. If the seeds are dried skip this step. After 15 minutes the seeds should be dried and ready to be removed from the oven. Increase oven temperature to 275 degrees. Remove seeds from baking sheet and toss in a medium bowl with butter, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Return seeds to baking sheet and spread evenly.  Roast for about 30 minutes-40 minutes and stir every 10 minutes to prevent sticking and scorching.  Remove seeds from baking sheet and store in an airtight container. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pumpkin Molasses Bread

Welcome to October's What's Baking?


We were challenged to bake with pumpkin or squash in the month of October, and what else could be a more perfectly timed ingredient? I immediately decided on pumpkin because I was planning on making a few batches of fresh puree and wanted to work it into this challenge. As you know I love pumpkin and look forward to fall anticipating all of the yummy treats that will come our of our kitchen.  However, I was curious on the some of the history of pumpkins and how it relates to our food culture. I was going a bit of reading on Colonial America and found a few interesting tidbits of information on pumpkins. Pumpkins are one of the oldest native crops to America and have been cultivated by indigenous populations in North and South America for what is estimated to be about 6,000 years. Initially, seeds were eaten, but that lead to cultivation and eventually consumption of the entire pumpkin.  I won't go into too much detail, but have linked the page from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation above if you are interested in reading more. Another this that I found really interesting is that many preparation methods have stayed very similar to their original preparation. 

Back to the bread, I used a traditional quick bread method, but subbed out the oil for homemade unsweetened  applesauce. I also added molasses because I love the flavor and thought it would work perfectly with pumpkin. The flavors of this bread are wonderful and perfect for fall, and the texture is dense and moist.  I am so happy to participate in such a fun group and can't wait to see what everyone else made (and to get a few more pumpkin recipes to try!).

This week I have been working on a few Halloween recipes, and can't wait to share them with you next week!



Ingredients

1/2 unsweetened applesauce
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla
Two eggs, beaten
1/4 cup molasses
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt


Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease an 8.5 x 4.5 loaf pan.

In a large bowl, mix pumpkin, applesauce, eggs, molasses and vanilla using  a stand mixer or handheld beater till smooth. Beat in the sugars till evenly mixed. Sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Gently stir in the flour mixture by hand or on low speed. 

Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth so that it is even. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until middle is set (this is a very dense bread and you will likely always have a  few crumbles with the tooth pick test)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Apple Cider Dip

One of my fall favorites besides pumpkin are fresh apples. We are lucky enough to have two Macintosh trees in our back yard and are spoiled to enjoy the delicious apples. Ever since I can remember I have loved a big glass of apple cider (hot or cold). It is especially perfect of a crisp day on my back porch. This year Kellen has been loving running out to the trees to pick his snack. I love that he has started to make this connection, and it is adorable to see how thrilled he was to finally eat an apple he watched grow all spring. 

I am normally not a big fan of traditional fruit dip, but I wanted to create a dip that apple cider because I love the flavors and it is perfect for fall. I though the easiest way to do this was to create a syrup to get the intense flavor I wanted from the dip.  The syrup will be a similar consistency to maple syrup, but a touch thinner.  Initially, the dip may seem a dip watery and letting it rest in the fridge will result in a thicker consistency.  

I made this dip for an evening with my girlfriends (such willing test subjects) and they all thought it was delicious and thought the cider flavor was great. I like the added cinnamon to the cider, but if you want less cinnamon flavor reduce the number of sticks used or eliminate it all together. 

Tonight is my weekly t.v. binge..... I can't help myself and Twisty the Clown is still haunting my dreams.  Any Walking Dead watchers out there??? Wasn't Sunday crazy!? I stupidly made the mistake of eating during the episode....bad plan and lesson learned for the future. 


Ingredients

3 cups apple cider
1/2 Tbl brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
12 oz cream cheese, room temperature
Ground Cinnamon


Instructions

In a medium pot, add cider, brown sugar and cinnamon sticks. Bring the cider to a simmer and heat to medium-low. Allow the cider to slowly simmer and reduce until it is a syrup. This takes about 45-60 minutes. Strain the syrup and allow it to slightly cool. Mix the syrup with the cream cheese. Cover and chill for about 30 minutes before serving. Top with ground cinnamon and serve with apple slices.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pumpkin Puree

I am a seriously pumpkin lover and normally buy pumpkin puree out of convenience, but this year I decided that it was time to start making my own. Pumpkin puree is so easy and it makes me kick myself for buying all those cans over the years.  

This recipe is super easy and quickly gives you a delicious puree. The only thing that takes a little while is scooping out the seeds, but that is not a big undertaking.  I love baking with pumpkin in the fall and love the fresh taste of homemade puree. My husband is not a pumpkin lover, but it turns out my son is! While I was processing the puree my little guy wandered into the kitchen to "see cokooin'" and wanted to try a spoonful. Kellen proclaimed it as yummy and proceeded to have many following spoonfuls of pumpkin. Thank goodness pumpkin love has fallen in my favor...so far. I am also loving that he is getting more and more interested in getting into the kitchen with me. 

This recipe makes about 2 cups of puree, but this may depend on the size pumpkins you are using. It stores in the fridge for about a week, but it is freezer friendly and can be stored there as well. 

I don't know about you, but all I can think about is now pumpkin pie!


Ingredients

2 pie pumpkins 
Baking Sheet 
Foil
Food Processor


Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside. 

Cut the tops off of the pumpkins and cut in half. Scoop out the pumpkin seeds and set save them for roasting at a later time. Make sure to scrape the sides of the pumpkin to remove all the stringy stuff.  Next, halve the pumpkin again (you will have 8 pieces total) and place on the baking sheet pumpkin side up.  Bake 45-55 minutes, or until the pumpkin is fork tender and skin has wrinkled.  

Remove pumpkin from the over and allow it to cool until you can comfortably handle it.  Remove the skin by peeling it off with your hands. Place pumpkin in the food processor (you could use a blender if you do not have a food processor) and process till smooth, about 3 minutes. 

Store covered in the fridge up to 7 days. This recipe yields about 2 cups of puree depending on the size of the pumpkin. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Baked Pumpkin Goat Cheese Alfredo with Bacon

Time for October's Crazy Ingredient Challenge!


The theme for this month was pumpkin and bacon. Bring on my happy dance.....seriously.  If you are a regular reader you probably know that we (Ron, Kellen and I) and bacon lovers, and (like a big chunk of the rest of the United States) we look forward to ways to put it in anything.  My thoughts immediately went to pasta because of the pumpkin component, and I wanted to go savory. However, though my husband is a bacon lover he is a pumpkin hater (boo hiss), and I thought this was prefect opportunity for cook for my girlfriends during our henna party. I thought a baked alfredo type pasta was just the ticket! I also used goat cheese because I know my girls love it (and it is another ingredient my husband is not a fan of). This pasta is wonderfully easy to put together, unique and a perfect fall savory dish. 

My girlfriends and I absolutely loved this pasta, and it was perfect for our evening (check out the henna photos on my last meal plan post). I am sure that you could lighten up this dish, but I am not going to pretend that is a good idea in this case because this is a pasta that is meant to be sinful. One point to note- the sauce with seem a bit watery when poured into the baking dish, but it will thicken as it is in the oven. The flavors of bacon, pumpkin and goat cheese are amazing together, and each distinctive. 

If you are interested in joining our challenge, stop over to Dawn of Spatulas on Parade to say hello and to get more information.  I am excited to see what next month will bring! 

Ingredients

1 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 Tbl olive oil
4 Tbl salted butter
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbl fresh chopped sage
1 pint heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
6 oz goat cheese, divided
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (+ a few extra Tbl for topping)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp white pepper
Salt, to taste
1 lb shaped pasta


Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking dish and set aside. 

Cook pasta according to package instructions, drain and set aside. 

In a large pot, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and allow it to cook for 1-2 minutes stirring frequently to avoid scorching. Add sage, cream, milk, 4 oz of goat cheese, pumpkin and Parmesan. Reduce heat to low, whisking continuously and allow the sauce to slowly bubble. Allow the sauce to cook for 7-10 minutes. The sauce should reduce a bit, but will not be thick (it will thicken in the oven). Taste and season with salt and white pepper (remember you will add bacon so do not over salt). 

Remove from heat and gently stir in the pasta. Pour pasta into the prepared baking dish. Top with a few tablespoons of Parmesan, remaining goat cheese (crumble with your hands) and bacon. 

Bake for 30-40 minute or until sauce is bubbly. 

Weekly Meal Plan 10/20 - 10/26

Happy Monday!

Less than two weeks till Halloween! Even time I think that I get the song from Halloween III and the Silver Shamrock commercial.  This weekend we had a few fun Halloween activities and a fun adult activity at Lambeau Field! 

On Friday, we bummed around and went out for fish. Kellen is a fish lover, but loves the pickles that come with the meal even more!

On Saturday, we started the day at the community Trick or Treat Trail with my mom, sister and nephew. The trail was beautiful and Kellen got a lots of treats and coupons to use around Green Bay. The event is put on by the Village of Bellevue and is a lot of fun for kids. 

My sweet Triceratops:
 

Later in the evening (and after a nap), we headed to Heritage Hill for a Brother's Grimm Halloween with a few friends. I have been going to this since I was a child and I love feeling like we stepped back in time. The kids loved running around and having a few treats as well. Heritage Hill is a living museum and it is awesome to see the different volunteers bring the era to life. 

On Sunday, Ron and I were up bright and early to drop off Kellen and head to Lambeau Field with my cousins for the Packer game. We have gone the past few years as a group and it is always so much fun. We usually start our tailgate around 8:00 am so we are properly ready for the game. Grilled brats and coolers of cold beer are musts in my book. The game was a bit of a blow out in our favor, and was a blast!


This week I am doing some Halloween prepping and we are headed to to zoo for ZooBoo this weekend with my sister-in-law, brother-in-law, nephew and niece. 

Here is what is on tap:

Monday: Mummy Calzone with Bloody Dipping Sauce
Tuesday: Loaded Potato Gnocchi Soup and Salad
Wednesday:  Spaghetti with Oozy Eyeballs, Garlic Bread and Salad
Thursday: Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings and Green Beans and Carrots
Friday:  Chicken Curry Soup 
Saturday: Zoo Boo and Out for Dinner
Sunday:Slow Cooker Peanut Thai Beef, Brown Rice, Pea Pods  and Graveyard Cake

Friday, October 17, 2014

Taco Ranch Chicken

Do you have a go to method for chicken tacos? I have a few favorites. Two of my favorites are cheddar beer chicken tacos and salsa verde chicken, but my all time favorite is Taco Ranch. I do not know what it is about this flavor combination, but I absolutely adore for our tacos. The meat is so flavorful and juicy, and is always raved about when I bring it for a taco bar at work. Kellen really like shredded chicken and goes nuts for this stuff. He especially liked it with rice or couscous as a meat carrier system. 

Tonight we are having a low key night at home before a busy weekend. On Saturday, we are going to a pumpkin walk with my sister in the morning and a Halloween event at Heritage Hill with friends in the evening. I am excited because Kellen gets to wear his Triceratops costume for the first time and it is soooo freakin' cute! On Sunday, we are dropping Kellen off and heading to the Packer game with my cousins for a bright and early tailgate followed by the football game. I am so excited! It is my first Packer game of the season and I am so pumped! 

Have a great weekend everyone! 


Ingredients

2 1/2- 3 lb chicken breasts
1 envelope taco seasoning
1 envelope ranch seasoning
Juice from 1 lime
2 cups chicken stock


Instructions

Place chicken breasts into crockpot. Mix remaining ingredients into a medium bowl and pour over chicken. Stir to coat. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to crockpot and cook for an additional hour.  Use for tacos, sandwiches, salads or wraps.