Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pumpkin Two Ways

I hope everyone enjoyed and or survived their Thanksgiving weekend and made it home safely if you were traveling.  Greg and I spent the holiday with his family in Northern California and as we welcomed a new member and missed the ones who couldn't be with us the important things remained; good food, wine tasting at one of our favorite wineries, Clos Du Val, with our pup and pumpkin pie.  

Now that we have returned home to LA and unpacked we were left with "what's for dinner."  Looking at what was in the refrigerator and what we brought back with us I decided on leftover pumpkin something using our pumpkin puree.  So we started with a pumpkin pie cocktail to unwind and then moved on to pumpkin cheddar and bacon grilled cheese sandwich which filled us up and was a great end to our Thanksgiving weekend.  Both were so good I had to share and hope you love them as much as we did!

Pumpkin Pie Cocktail

1 tablespoon pumpkin puree
1-1/2 ounces Stoli Vanilla Vodka
1/2 ounce butterscotch schnapps
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick 

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously to mix well.  Strain over an ice filled glass and garnish with a cinnamon stick.  This makes one serving but could be made as a large batch to serve for a party.

Pumpkin Cheddar and Bacon Grilled Cheese Sandwich

1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon asiago cheese, grated
1 teaspoon fresh sage
1 large garlic clove
Dash of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
4 slices of cibatta bread
4 strips of bacon
4-6 ounces white smoked cheddar cheese, sliced (found at Whole Foods)

In a small bowl, mix the pumpkin puree, asiago cheese, sage, garlic and nutmeg.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Heat a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Lightly butter the outsides of all four slices of bread.  Place one slice of bread, butter side down, in the skillet.  Line the bread with the smoked cheddar cheese, top with about half of the pumpkin mixture, place 2 strips of bacon on the pumpkin mixture, then top with more cheese and place another slice of bread, butter side up, on top.  Repeat with the other 2 slices of bread.  Cook both sandwiches until golden brown and the cheese has melted, about 4-6 minutes on each side.  Makes 2 sandwiches.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Maple-Cinnamon Pumpkin Pie

If you were following on Monday I shared how to make your own pumpkin puree for your holiday recipes. I wanted to make sure that I gave out a pumpkin pie recipe before Thanksgiving and before my husband and I travel to Nothern California to celebrate with his family.

I would love to share my Mom's pumpkin pie recipe but she says that it's a family secret. So I found one similar thanks to Pinterest and Better Homes and Gardens that deserves to be shared.  I did a test run of it a few weeks ago on some friends and the loved it!  Even a friend of ours who doesn't like pumpkin said how much he liked it. 

Now if you are into making your own crust follow the instructions for my husband's pie pastry crust recipe below.
I am apologizing in advance for no pictures but I will update this post with a picture tomorrow night after I bake mine.

Pie Pastry Crust

The Story Behind The Crust
I developed an interest for cooking after meeting my foodie wife and falling in love (with her and food) and suddenly I had a new hobby.
After many years of store bought pies for the holidays, due to my Grandmother's rheumatoid arthritis I thought I would attempt making a pie with her famous pie crust.  The communication was hard at first but after my Grandmother's encouragement, a few swear words from my mouth, and my Grandpa's "playful banter" suggesting that I should have just bought a pie crust, I have been successful ever since.

I thank my Grandmother for passing this recipe to me and will always continue this tradition.  We (my Grandma and I) hope you enjoy!

2 cups flour
1 cup vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4-1/2 cup ice water (you may need more)

This recipe will make two pie crusts. Perfect for the holidays if you're making more than one pie, or need a top layer.

In a large mixing bowl, add flour and salt and mix well.  Add shortening to the flour and salt mixture.  Using a hand pastry blender cut shortening into the flour mixture until you have reached the consistency of crumbles. You can do this with two butter knives as well but it takes forever.  Be careful not to over work.  Next, slowly add the ice water to form the dough.  Make sure that the dough is moist enough to form a smooth ball.  This next step is optional.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refridgerate for 30 minutes.  Otherwise, roll the dough out on well floured parchment paper making sure to not over work.  Press the pastry into the pie plate and use a fork to poke holes along the bottom and sides of pie crust. This will get rid of any left over air bubbles and distribute the heat evenly when cooking.

Pumpkin Pie Filling 
16 ounces fresh pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or a little more if you like cinnamon as much as I do)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

In a large bowl combine the pumpkin puree, sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon and salt.  Add the lightly beaten eggs and whisk together until combined.  Gradually add the milk until all ingredients are combined well.

Carefully pour the filling into the pastry lined pie plate and gently place it in the oven.  To prevent over browning cover the edge of the pie with foil or use a pie shield.  Bake for 30 minutes and remove the foil or pie shield.  Bake for another 23-30 minutes more or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. 

Cool on an wire rack for 1-2 hours then serve. You can also serve your pie chilled by placing it in the refridgerator until ready to serve.

Maple Whipped Cream

1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

In a medium bowl combine whipping cream and maple syrup.  Beat with and electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

My Great Pumpkin Waltz

Fall is one of my favorite times of year and although I now live in Southern California and miss the the changing of the leaves and the amazing fashionable cold weather clothes, I still love to get in the spirit of the harvest season.

As Thanksgiving is nearing I thought it would only be appropriate to write about pumpkins.  My Mom's pumpkin pie has been a tradition in my family on Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember.  I even think some of us look forward to it more than the turkey.  The smell of pumpkin roasting in the oven and then baking into a pie brings back so many memories of holidays at home with my family.

When I was a kid growing up I guess I only thought pumpkins were for carving and for pie, however as an adult who now loves looking for new and interesting ways to use ingredients I have found many wonderful recipes.  But before I share these with you we need to start at the beginning, baking the pumpkin and creating the puree.  I use a sugar pie pumpkin but if you live on the east coast I suggest trying to seek out a neck pumpkin or have your Mom overnight you one already baked, pureed, and ready for your pie.

Pumpkin Puree

What you will need:
1 sugar pie pumpkin (mine is from Trader Joe's)
Baking sheet
Food processor 
Medium bowl 
Medium fine mesh strainer
Serrated and non-serrated knifes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Begin by carefully cutting off the stem of the pumpkin with a large serrated knife. Next, cut the pumpkin into quarters and scrape the seeds into a bowl while discarding the stringy flesh.  Save the seeds for roasting later.

Place the pumpkin quarters on a foil lined baking sheet and cover the pumpkin with foil.  Bake the pumpkin for 1-1/2 hours until tender. To test, poke the rind with a fork.  When it slides through easily the pumpkin is done.
Remove from oven and let cool. Scrape out 2 quarters of the pumpkin into the food processor and puree until smooth.  Place pureed pumpkin in the mesh strainer over a bowl to catch the watery liquid.  The smoother and thicker the puree the better.  Repeat this process with the other half. 

Use pumpkin immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days or in the freezer for up to 1 year.  

Note: one sugar pie pumpkin makes about 1-1/2 to 2 cups of puree.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

On the Spicy Side

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