Quick Genius Lunch

In a culinary sense, I’m not that creative. Sarah can mix and match ingredients following a general guideline and come up with something. I need to follow recipes word by word and line by line. Even when I find recipes online and some of the comments will add this or omit that to make it “better” I can’t help but think “no, that’s not right, follow the recipe.” I also don’t just wing it and make something. I can’t just grab some things and whip something up. I need a plan, I need at the very least a precedent for what I am making.
All of the above is why I am shocked by what I made for lunch. To me, it’s creative as I just grabbed what I had at hand and made something. Something I have never had before. Something that seems so genius to me that I am absolutely convinced that it exists in multiple forms that I am not aware of. A quick Google or Pinterest search would probably confirm my suspicions. But instead of doing that I am just going to bask in my own abilities and my kitchen genius.

Pizza Quesadilla
Ingredients

  • Oil Spray (Like Pam or the generic stuff I used)
  •  2 Tortillas (The bigger kind)
  • Mozzarella Cheese (Enough to fill the tortillas, but don’t get crazy)
  • Pepperoni (Put what you want in but don’t overstuff this thing) Can be substituted with whatever else you like on your pizza. I don’t judge
  • a Bit of Tomato Sauce to wet it all together (again don’t go crazy, the tortillas can only handle so much.) Today I used some jar pasta sauce our go-to for pizza. Again use what you would for pizza, or put plain tomato sauce in and spice it up yourself, or jar pizza sauce, or use Alfredo sauce, again I don’t judge.

Directions

Do you really need me to tell you how to make quesadillas? Yeah? ok.

  1. Oils one side of each tortilla.
  2. Heat a pan over medium heat on the stove top.
  3. Put the cheese, pepperoni (or whatnot) and sauce on a non-oiled side of tortilla. Sandwich the other tortilla (non-oiled side down) onto the mixture
  4. Toss onto pan, heat a few minutes on one side, flip and heat a few minutes more on the other. Until cheese is melted and the tortilla is browned
  5. Cut and enjoy

Sorry I don’t have any pictures of my success. I was too busy eating and enjoying it to snap a few shots. Know that it looked melty and delicious.

-Chris

PS Penny loved it too.

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Traditions and Histories

Day 31:

Happy Halloween Everyone! By now the ghosts and goblins have hopefully all turned in for the evening. Was your costume good enough to confuse and ward off the evil spirits that roamed the Earth? I think I am safe.

I’d like to take this time to thank the Celts for the celebration of Samhain, the end of the Harvest and the beginning of Winter. I’d also like to thank the Christians who converted Samhain into Hallowmas, All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Finally I’d like to thank the Scottish and Irish immigrants of the late 19th and early 20th century that brought us Guising which eventually turned into Trick or Treating.

That’s a lot of thanks. This is Halloween, not Thanksgiving. But our final entry in this 31 Days of Pumpkins is a Thanksgiving tradition: Pumpkin Pie. Sure our Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese was excellent. And who doesn’t love a nice Pumpkin Ale after a day of raking leaves? And our different Pumpkin Curries were interesting and pretty good too. But come one. These aren’t traditions. These aren’t what you think of when you think about eating pumpkins. These aren’t the recipes that are so intrinsically Fall that they are hard-wired into our Holiday Traditions. No, Pumpkin Pie is. After all it was the Pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving in 1621 who turned to the Wampanoag Indians and said “Great Meal, now what’s for dessert.” And thus the greatest pie was created! (Please note, this might not be true. It may have been created in England in the 17th Century after pumpkins were introduced. The first English pumpkin pie recipes are from this time. It isn’t until the early 19th century that an American Pumpkin Pie Recipe is found)*
But you didn’t come here for my Thanks or some pseudo-History. You came here for a recipe. So I give you:
The Best Ever Pumpkin Pie
How do I know it’s the best ever? Well, I got it from our Pumpkin Lover’s Cookbook from Golden West Publishers, and they have a reputation to uphold. Maybe. They also provide the Foolproof Pie Crust that I used today. We can vouch for this pie crust because we have been using for years and it is excellent. Let’s start there:
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups of unbleached flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp of melted margarine
  • 1 tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup of cold water

Directions:

Mix dry ingredients, cut in melted margarine. Mix vinegar and cold water, add to flour mixture tossing and stirring as you add. Stir vigorously with fork until mixture holds together well, hen form into ball. Roll out between wax paper sheets. Roll into ungreased pie pan. Chill (The crust, you still have to make the pie)

an empty shell

an empty shell

Now for the pie:

ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2-3 tsp pumpkin spice (as we may have mentioned before, we don’t have pumpkin spice so I cheated and used the spice list from another pumpkin pie recipe: 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp cloves)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin or pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups milk

Directions:

In a bowl, blend together Sugar, salt and spices. Ina separate bowl, beat eggs and add the pumpkin. Add sugar and spice mixture to egg and pumpkin mixture, mix well. Gradually add milk. Pour into pie crust.

Unbaked

Unbaked

Bake in preheated 450 degree oven for 10 minutes. Drop heat to 350 and continue baking for 40 minutes or until done. (Mine took about 55 minutes) Cool completely and serve with whipped cream. You have to eat Pumpkin PIe with whipped cream.

baked

baked

Tomorrow we get the results as it is still cooling now, and we don’t have any whipped cream. It looks and smells great.
-Chris
*Most of he history was pulled from a Mental Floss article and Wikipedia, or made up along the way.
31 Days! We did it!
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Homemade Pumpkin Puree

Day 30:

Around the Autumn holidays, I feel like I can not have enough pumpkins.  Some for carving, some for decorating, some for painting, and ALL for eating when finished. Pumpkin is loaded with Vitamin A, it is high in fiber, low in calories and you can add it to almost any different kind of food due to its mild flavor.

Ever since I was a kid, my mom and grandma would take our leftover Halloween pumpkins and grate them up for making pots and pots of delicious pumpkin soup.  There are lots of posts on the internet about cooking up pumpkins and most of them insist that pie pumpkins are the only ones that are edible.  Pie pumpkins are meant to have sweet flesh that blends very smooth.  “Field” pumpkins, which are the big ones bred to be good jack-o-lanterns are said to be stringy with lots of seeds.

In my experience, there is no difference in taste and flavor from one pumpkin to the next.  Larger pumpkins seem like they would be more difficult to deal with than the smaller pie pumpkins but I tend to disagree.

 

easy to clean with a short soak in hot water

easy to clean with a short soak in hot water

 

“Field” pumpkins                               Pie Pumpkins

  • larger, more puree                      smaller, less puree
  • skin easy to cut                            incredible difficult to cut
  • lots of seeds                                 same

The skin of the pie pumpkin was so hard it was like cracking rock so all the time I saved for it being smaller was not worth the extra effort.

To get loads of pumpkin puree for your next baking project, cut open a pumpkin of your choice and scoop out the “guts”.  Save or discard the seeds depending on whether you will want to eat them or not.  At this point, you have 2 options. The first is for when using a small pumpkin, place both halves cut side down in a shallow baking pan with an inch of water and bake in a 350 degree oven for roughly 40 minutes or until you can poke the flesh easily with a fork. If using a large pumpkin that will not fit easily in a shallow baking pan cut the pumpkin into smaller, more manageable chunks and using a vegetable peeler or sharp knife cut off the outermost skin.  Cut the flesh into chunks and add to a pot of boiling water until soft. Puree the water and pumpkin.  This mixture will have more water than traditional canned pumpkin but a few hours in a crock pot with the lid partially off will help to boil out all the remaining water.  Section off the puree and freeze into smaller portions to be used at later dates.

crockpot cooking

crockpot cooking

-Sarah

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Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer

Day 29:

Who doesn’t love a tasty flavored coffee creamer in a nice hot cup of coffee? A few years back, my good friend and I lived off the stuff every day at work around 3pm when I couldn’t make it through the rest of the day without a little caffeine boost. Although I drank it every day I never really noticed the list of unusual ingredients listed on the side of the bottle. There are many different things included that do not appear to be necessary. I will not deny its deliciousness BUT I am intrigued at the idea that I could make a suitable alternative with everyday items in the kitchen.

Here goes! Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer was really easy to make so that goes in the plus column.

Recipe:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 Tbsp. pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • dash cardamon
  • dash cloves
  • 4 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar (called for Splenda which I do not like)

pumpkin coffee creamer

The coffee creamer was very easy to put together and tasted pretty good on its own.  I was a little disappointed in the finished product in the coffee, though, as it was nicely spiced but bland.  I added the sugar as an afterthought and the coffee was really strong so I will try more tomorrow to see if I have a different attitude on a different day.  If not, my sister suggested I let Penny drink it and call it pumpkin pie milk.  That might work too:)

To improve the flavor I would try to make the mix with half & half instead and use the real pumpkin pie spice they suggested in the original recipe. – Sarah

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Pumpkin Lasagna

Day28:
I’m still a bit under the weather. I hope that tomorrow I will be on the upswing. Because of this, nothing was made with Pumpkins today. Good thing I did a bonus recipe yesterday for dinner.Pumpkin Lasagna with Fontina from Williams-Sonoma. This was quite and expenditure of energy and dishes on my part, but man was this a good dish. Their recipe called for a jar of Pumpkin Parmesan Sauce, but I didn’t have that so I had to make it. That recipe was found at Fit Souffle. It calls for about 4 cups of pureed pumpkin which was all we had left. I was a bit skeptical of all that pumpkin as I wasn’t sure how the flavor would be. It was excellent, though. I should never doubt the power of cheese.

Pumpkin Parmesan Sauce
Ingredients 
1/4 cup butter (4 Tbsp)
1/2 small onion diced
3 cloves of garlic
salt
pepper
4 cups of pure pumpkin (approximately 2 15oz cans)
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (I used a can of vegetable broth)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup parmesan cheese

Instructions
In a medium-sized stock pot heat the butter until melted and then add the garlic and onion. Cook until the onion is soft, about 6-8 minutes.  Stir in the pumpkin, chicken stock, nutmeg, salt and pepper.   Stir the mixture well over medium heat until smooth and creamy for about 10-12 minutes.  Add the parmesan cheese and stir until melted and mixed.  Turn the heat down to low and let sit for another 5-7 minutes.

Pumpkin Lasagna with Fontina

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. (500 g) whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 Tbs. julienned fresh sage (I used a tsp of dried sage)
  • 1/4 cup (1/3 oz./10 g) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (I used 2 tbs of dried parsley)
  • 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 yellow summer squash, cut into rounds 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick (I doubled up on Zucchini as I didn’t have yellow squash)
  • 2 zucchini, cut into rounds 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 jar pumpkin Parmesan pasta sauce (See above for sauce recipe)
  • 12 sheets dried ruffle-edged lasagna noodles, cooked until al dente (normally I would use regular lasagna noodles, but I had to settle for the no-boil kind. They came out all right)
  • 1 lb. Italian fontina cheese, shredded

Directions

Preheat an oven to 450°F (230°C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
In a bowl, stir together the ricotta, sage, 3 Tbs. of the parsley and the garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a large bowl, toss the yellow squash and zucchini with 1 Tbs. of the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and roast until tender and lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

So Many Zucchinis

So Many Zucchinis

Meanwhile, in an oval Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

Caramelized Onions

Caramelized Onions

Transfer to a bowl and add the yellow squash and zucchini. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C).
Spread 1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g) pasta sauce in an even layer on the bottom of the Dutch oven. Arrange a single layer of lasagna noodles on top, tearing them as needed to fit. Spread 1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g) ricotta mixture on the noodles and scatter 1 cup (5 oz./155 g) vegetable mixture on top. Spread 1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g) pasta sauce over the vegetables and sprinkle 1 cup (4 oz./125 g) fontina on top. Layer the noodles, ricotta, vegetables, sauce and fontina 3 more times, omitting the sauce and fontina on the last layer. Top with the remaining noodles, sauce and fontina.
Transfer to the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is melted and browned, 45 to 50 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining 1 Tbs. parsley on top. Let the lasagna rest for 15 minutes before serving. Serves 8 to 10.

So many dishes later and we had a delicious meal. Really, this was so good and I plan on making it again before Winter is upon us, and maybe even after because why not?

Melty Cheese

Melty Cheese

Ready to Serve

Ready to Serve

-Chris

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Let’s Get Some French Toast

Day 27:

I have been sick all weekend laid out with a cold or a sinus infection. Yesterday I stayed in the basement all day watching television with Penny. HOurs went by like nothing. Sarah took the free time to do some serious baking. She made breads, a bbq sauce, soup and cabbage and noodles. Se also put together this morning’s breakfast, Pumpkin French Toast Bake. The bread needed to soak overnight, so it was the last thing she put together last night as I inched my way into Nyquil dreams. She put the final touched on it this morning and I groggily ate it and loved it.

Ingredients (The Below is the Halved recipe)

  • 3-4  cups 1-inch bread cubes
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cups milk
  • 1 /2tsp vanilla extract
  • 1  tsp pumpkin pie spice
  •  1/2 cup pumpkin puree)
  • 2-3tablespoons brown sugar for topping
  • nuts, like pecan or walnuts (optional)

Instructions

  1. Cut any kind of bread into 1-inch cubes – I recommend a crusty, whole grain variety, but sandwich bread will work, too. Just use enough slice to fill a lightly greased 9×13 baking dish quite full.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, pumpkin butter and pie spice until well combined. Pour over bread and push down with a spoon or your hands until it’s all soaked and mostly covered. Cover with saran wrap or lid and refrigerate overnight.
  3. In the morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees, uncover and top with brown sugar, additional pumpkin pie spice and nuts (optional). Bake for 35-45 minutes or golden brown and no longer wet.
  4. Serve immediately with maple syrup, honey or agave nectar. Store leftovers in the refrigerator covered for up to a couple days.

We used some of the remaining apple cider syrup from our Pumpkin Waffles of a few weeks ago. Another great breakfast!

French Toast

French Toast

-Chris

I was still sick today but I used my reserve energy to put together a bonus pumpkin dish for dinner, but since I am completely drained it will have to wait until tomorrow.

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The Cat’s Pajamas

Day 26:

A lot of people either don’t realize, or forget that we have a cat. The reason is, that our cat Napoleon spends almost all day long sitting on the bar downstairs. He’s done that since we got Sooki 5 years ago. The scratches on our furniture, the half-eaten plants and the quick scampering early in the morning can attest to the fact that he has a nocturnal life throughout the house while we sleep. But during the day? On he bar, in his bed. He’s friendly when you pet him, and sometimes he’ll say hi, but for the most part he keeps to himself. So, given all that I can understand why he is forgotten by our guests. I didn’t forget about him this month. I made him some treats.

These Howl-oween Hairball Helpers were found from Rachael Ray, who knew she made cat food as well?

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 5 ounce can tuna in water
  • 2 tablespoons canned pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon dried catnip
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees . In a bowl, combine all the ingredients, mixing until a dough forms. Using floured hands, pinch off bite-size pieces of dough (about 1/4 tsp. each) and place on lightly greased cookie sheets.

  2. Bake until lightly browned and crisp, about 20 minutes. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use.

Well, he loved the first one that we gave him. Then he bit the second one a little and left it alone. I’ll have to give him another one to see if these are a hit or not. Otherwise I have made another treat for the dog.

Treats in the Oven

Treats in the Oven

Over it.

Over it.

-Chris

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Drink in Autumn

Day 25:

A nice way to relax after a long week is to kick back with a cocktail. Before dinner or after dinner is the perfect time to enjoy (I had one at both times today)

I like to keep it simple with cocktails. No fancy alcohols, no exotic ingredients. This Pumpkin Cider Cocktail from Food Mayhem fit the bill.

Ingredients

  • pinch spice mix (equal parts cinnamon, allspice, & nutmeg)
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin puree
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated ginger and ginger sticks to garnish (Ginger Sticks are optional, we didn’t have any)
  • ice as needed
  • 2 ounces apple cider
  • 1 ounce spiced rum

Instructions

1. Toast spice mix in a dry pan until fragrant.  Remove pan from heat and add freshly grated ginger and pumpkin puree. Stir well to combine. (OK, So maybe toasting spices isn’t exactly “simple” but it is nicely fragrant. It only take about a minute so no big deal)

2. Pour mixture into an ice-filled cocktail shaker.  Add rum and apple cider.  Shake vigorously to combine.

Mix it well.

Mix it well.

3. Strain into a champagne flute or cordial glass. (Or mason jar if you are feeling shabby chic) Garnish with a stick of fresh ginger.

Enjoy!

Enjoy!

I thoroughly loved this drink. Sarah did as well, she especially liked that it wasn’t too sweet. The Pre-Dinner version was made with Bacardi Rum, whereas the Post-Dinner version was made with Kraken Spiced Rum. I preferred the extra spice that the Kraken brought. Our guests liked the drink as well. I highly recommend this cocktail and look forward to having it again.

-Chris

P.S. Drink responsibly and be over 21 years of age!

 

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Chili Weather

Day 24:

I woke up this morning with a couple of inches of snow on the lawn and on my car. Snow was still falling on my commute. However when I pulled into my work approximately 20 miles away the sun was peeking out and there was no snow to be seen. This afternoon was warmer, the sun was still shining on my work and it was close to 50 degrees. However on the ride home the dark clouds were ominous in the northeast. A little bit of snow started falling again. But then the sun was out, but the gray clouds were still threatening. What does this all mean? Nothing really. This is Northeast Ohio and bizarre ever-changing weather is the norm. Look, I don’t like the snow before Halloween, or even Thanksgiving for that matter, but you learn to accept it and toughen up.

One path to acceptance is the consumption of comfort food. We already did Mac and Cheese earlier this month, which was amazing and which would have been great today. I have something even better though: Chili. Hot spices, warm food, hearty beans, you can’t beat it. The best part is chili is so easy to make. Usually I just pour a couple of cans of beans, a couple can of tomatoes, some spices and maybe an onion into a pot, heat it up and serve with grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s so easy, that when I decided to do Pumpkin Chili I didn’t even bother looking up a recipe ahead of time. I figured that I could do the same thing and toss some pumpkin in there. I got cold feet though and worried that the standard recipe wouldn’t accentuate the pumpkin enough. So I delved into Pinterest to find one that looked good. I was overwhelmed with the amount of choices that looked delicious. Ultimately I went for this one from London, Like the City with some modifications.

Pumpkin Chili

Pumpkin Chili

Pumpkin Chili

INGREDIENTS 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1 can Great Northern Beans
  •  1 can Kidney beans
  • 1/2 Jalapeno pepper
  •  1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 can pumpkin puree
  • A pinch of cumin, cinnamon and red pepper
  • 2-3Tbs of Chili Powder or more depending on your tastes (I couldn’t make chili without it so this is my addition)

INSTRUCTIONS

  • In a medium/large pot heat the oil over low heat.
  • Dice onion and bell pepper, mince garlic. Add to the pot and turn the heat up to medium. Saute until onion begins to soften.
  • Chop jalapeno pepper and add to the pot. Add diced tomatoes with juices, pumpkin and all the spices and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Drain and rinse the beans and add to the pot.
  • Once everything is warmed through check to see if you need to add any salt or pepper. Serve with cheese or sour cream. And cornbread. Don’t forget the cornbread. (I Made a quick Jiffy cornbread to go with this tonight.)
Penny loves cornbread.

Penny loves cornbread.

It really warmed us up on this crazy weather day.

-Chris

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Dog Eat Dog (Treat)

Day 23:
31 days of pumpkins has treats for the entire family and today that means our canine companion Sooki. I found this dog treat recipe at Pitlandia through Pinterest. I have always thought about making homemade treats for Sooki, but I never actually followed through with those thoughts. I barely take the time to make homemade treats for myself. This project though gave me the perfect opportunity to finally do that. Plus it gives us the perfect break from more snacks or pumpkin dinners. (Hey, we love them, but we can’t eat sweets every day right? We still have a load of scones left over)

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dog Treats (I Cut the recipe I found in half because I didn’t want hundred+ treats)

  • 1 1/4 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin purée, canned or fresh
  • 1 1/2 Tbsps peanut butter
“Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place all ingredients in the mixing bowl or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium for about a minute, or until the dough looks like a bunch of little dough balls. If you pinch a piece and it crumbles, add a little water. If it’s really sticky, it’s too wet and you’ll need to add a little flour. Gather the dough together and form into a ball. Place on a lightly floured work surface and roll it out to about 1/4-inch thickness. You can either use a cookie cutter to cut out cute shapes, or use a knife to cut squares or strips.  Place the cookies on a baking sheet.  Bake 15-20 minutes for softer treats or 30 minutes for hard treats.”
Yum?

Yum?

Patiently Waiting

Patiently Waiting

I hope Sooki likes them, but she’s been known to eat Kitty Litter so I think she will. Speaking of Kitty’s, I wonder if there are any pumpkin treats for Napoleon on Pinterest…
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