Monday, October 16, 2017

ChezCindy: Roasted Pumpkin Squash

Roasted Pumpkin Wedges

Pumpkins can be roasted in the same manner as any other squash, such as butternut or acorn.  The exterior pumpkin skin is such a vibrant orange color, yet when the skin is peeled away, the interior flesh is surprisingly pale in color.  You will want to choose small pumpkins, often named as Sugar or Pie pumpkins.  The larger pumpkins used for jack-o-lanterns are too tough and fibrous.  If you are lucky enough to find the heirloom variety pumpkins at a farm market, look for Long Island Cheese pumpkin, with pale yellow-orange skin, or the Cinderella pumpkin, more squat in shape resembling the carriage in the Disney story Cinderella. 

To roast the pumpkin, wash the pumpkin and dry it well.  Working on a stable cutting board that will hold its place on the counter, lay the pumpkin on its side; cut across the top about an inch away from the stem to remove the top.  The top can be roasted for presentation, but I usually toss it out.

Cut the pumpkin into quarters, remove the seeds and fibers.  The pumpkin quarters can be roasted with the skin on, or cut away the skin and cut the quarters into large 1-inch cubes.  Place the pumpkin onto a large rimmed baking sheet; drizzle with oil, rubbing the oil over the pumpkin flesh to coat lightly with the oil.  Season with salt and pepper, adding herbs as desired.  Pumpkins go well with fresh sage, rosemary and thyme.

Have the oven preheated to 375 degrees.  Place the sheet tray into the hot oven, roasting the pumpkin for 45-55 minutes, stirring once during the cooking time.  The pumpkin should be tender when pierced with a fork and lightly browned.  Remove the sheet tray from the oven, allow the pumpkin to cool on the tray.  If you have not already removed the skin prior to roasting, remove it when cool enough to handle, as the skin is not meant to be eaten.

The roasted pumpkin can be served as a side dish tossed with butter and salt.  Puree the pumpkin for making ravioli filling, or cube into small bite-size pieces adding to grains or soups.  Below is a link for roasted pumpkin with quinoa and kale. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

ChezCindy: Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice

 Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice

Pumpkin pie spice can be purchased in the spice aisle of your local grocer, but consider making your own.  It is generally a combination of warm spices used when making pumpkin pie.  You most likely have the spice ingredients in your pantry to make pumpkin pie spice, with a considerable difference in taste from store-bought.  And, there are endless uses when making Fall and Winer recipes from quick breads to cakes, cookies and granola.

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves

Measure each ingredient and add to a small bowl, whisking to combine.  Transfer to an airtight jar with a lid, such as a small glass canning or jelly jar.  Label and store in your pantry for 6-9 months. 

Pumpkin Pie Spice Granola

1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup pepitas, raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup chopped pecans
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Line 2 large rimmed baking sheet pans with parchment paper. 

In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil; cool.  Add in the maple syrup and vanilla.  Whisk to combine. 
In a large bowl, add the oats, pepitas, pecans, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice and salt.  Stir to combine.  Pour the coconut oil syrup mixture over the oats, stirring well to coat the oat ingredients.  Wait to add the dried cranberries until granola is baked.  Adding the dried fruit during the baking time makes the fruit tough and overly dried.  Always add any dried fruit after baking the granola.

Transfer the oat mixture to the lined sheet pans, spreading into a even layer.  Bake in the oven for 50-55 minutes, until lightly browned without stirring.  Remove from the oven.  Add the dried cranberries at this time.  Allow the granola to cool on the sheet pans.  When completely cool, break the granola into pieces and transfer to an airtight container, such as mason jars.  Granola will stay fresh in your pantry for 3-4 weeks. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

ChezCindy: Quinoa with Roasted Pumpkin, Kale and Cranberries

Quinoa with Roasted Pumpkin Squash, Kale and Cranberries

Recipe inspiration can come from unlikely places.  Today, as I was walking the aisles of Costco, I noticed that they had a packaged product of quinoa and kale.  I thought to myself, what a nice convenience that is.  But then thought, hmmm...I have cooked quinoa in my freezer, and fresh kale in the fridge.  I think I'll make this.  And so this recipe was created. 

The recipe came together quickly as I have been testing recipes with pumpkin, both in the can and fresh pumpkin squash.  I had just roasted a small whole pumpkin, sitting on my counter cooling.  It made sense to add it to the quinoa and kale.  These are Fall ingredients that are in season together and go together on the dinner plate.  Think of Thanksgiving with both squash and cranberry relish as side dishes with your turkey.  All are good flavor profiles.  And yes, this would be great for Thanksgiving.  Or Tuesday.

Cooking whole pumpkin is the same process as roasting any other type of fall squash, such as butternut or acorn.  Either of these squashes would work well as a substitute for the pumpkin.  Quinoa freezes well, as does brown rice or farro.  I usually have one or all of these in freezer bags, ready for their next use.  This makes dinner come together easily for a quick weeknight side dish.

Quinoa with Roasted Pumpkin, Kale and Cranberries
3 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup diced cooked pumpkin squash
2 cups chopped raw kale
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup dried cranberries
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Working in a large sauté pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add in the thinly sliced onions with a pinch of salt.  Stir, cooking for 3-4 minutes.  Add in the chopped raw kale and minced garlic, stir to combine.  Cover to wilt the kale, stirring occasionally, cooking for 5 minutes.  Add in the cooked quinoa, cooked diced pumpkin squash, dried cranberries, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper.  Stir to combine, cooking for roughly 5 minutes until quinoa and squash are heated.  Add in remaining tablespoon of olive oil and tablespoon of butter, stir to combine.  Taste for additional salt, adding as necessary.  Dish can be served hot or at room temperature. 

Directions on how to roast pumpkin squash.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

ChezCindy: Apple Pumpkin Muffins

Apple Pumpkin Muffins

With the changing seasons from Summer to Fall, the farm markets and grocers are stocked with welcoming sights of crisp apples and bright orange pumpkins.  Should I make apple muffins? Or, should I make pumpkin muffins?  No decision to make here.  Make apple pumpkin muffins.  These Fall favorites have big pieces of apples, moist pumpkin batter, and warm spices of cinnamon, ginger and cloves.  A perfect combination to celebrate the onset of Fall. 

Apple Pumpkin Muffins
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large firm-sweet apple
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Makes 18 standard size muffins.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line the muffin cups with paper liners or grease each cup with butter.  Working with a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder and the spices until combined.  Peel and core the apple, cut into 1/4 inch pieces.  In a second smaller bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, eggs, oil and vanilla; stir in the apples and walnuts.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry.  Stir to combine.  Fill the prepared muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full.  Bake until the muffins are puffed and golden for 20 - 22 minutes.  Allow the muffins to cool for 15 minutes before serving. 

Recipe inspired by:  The Apple Lover's Cookbook by Amy Traverso

Friday, September 29, 2017

ChezCindy: Chicken Apple Meatballs with Cider Mustard BBQ Sauce

Chicken Apple Meatballs with Cider Mustard BBQ Sauce

I am a meatball fanatic.  There is just something about the ground meat, the seasonings and the sauce that come together into one tiny perfect package of deliciousness.  One of my favorite cookbooks is The Meatball Shop Cookbook by Daniel Holzman & Michael Chernow.  The cookbook outlines the authors' story, philosophy and recipes that came to be their fabulous restaurant in New York City.  Yep, a restaurant all about meatballs.  And it is quite a success. 

This recipe is not one from their book, but I do follow their cooking process when making meatballs.  Their recommendation is to oven roast the meatballs as pictured below. 

Roasting the meatballs provides even cooking and helps to keep their shape.  Once cooked, I then remove them from the pan and add the sauce of choice.  Certainly you could braise or fry meatballs, depending on the recipe.  I also use a spring-loaded ice cream scoop to portion out the meatballs.  This keeps the meatballs uniform in size and aids in even cooking.   

The BBQ sauce I use for this recipe is one I make.  A store-bought one could be used, jazzing it up with cider and mustard to make it special.  The grated apples in the meatballs lend just a hint of sweetness and keep them moist.  A blend of ground beef and pork, in place of the chicken, would also complement the apples and mustard used in this recipe.

Chicken Apple Meatballs with Cider Mustard BBQ Sauce
1 pound ground chicken
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated apples, skin on
2 tablespoons grated onion
1 egg
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon wholegrain Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons oil for coating the roasting pan

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Drizzle 2 tablespoons of oil into a 9x13-inch roasting pan; spread to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. 
Combine all ingredients into a large bowl.  Stir to combine.  Portion out the mix to form meatballs roughly 2-inches in size.  Place the meatballs into the prepared roasting pan, lined up to fit closely together.  Roast for 25 minutes until the meatballs are firm and cooked through, 165 degrees when tested in the center of a meatball with a meat thermometer.  Remove the pan from the oven.  Allow the meatballs to rest in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a large bowl.  Add the sauce to the meatballs, gently toss to lightly cover.  Serve extra sauce on the side as desired. 

Cider Mustard BBQ Sauce
1/2 cup Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup cider
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients into a small sauce pan; whisk to combine.  Cook over low heat for 15 minutes.  Serve with your favorite recipe.  Store extra sauce in an air-tight container in refrigerator. 

If using store-bought BBQ sauce:  Measure out 1 cup of sauce.  Add 1/4  cup cider and 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard.  Stir to combine. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

ChezCindy: Turkey and Pumpkin Black Bean Chili

Turkey and Pumpkin Black Bean Chili

Most everyone has their favorite chili recipe, made often during the Fall-season.  A standard dish served while watching football games or just enjoying the cooler weather.  Whether you make your chili spicy hot with chunks of beef or ground meat, beans or no beans as some "authorities" claim chili has no beans, or vegetarian with squash, tomatoes and legumes, chili is easy, versatile and delicious.
Here I have made turkey and pumpkin black bean chili as a change up from ground beef.  I first created this recipe after Thanksgiving using the left-overs from that wonderful dinner.  Instead of using ground turkey, I shredded turkey meat as the base.  I had left-over pumpkin puree from making pumpkin pie - what to do with that?  Add it to the tomatoes sauce for the chili.  It all come together as the traditional chili recipe, with a few clever twists.

Turkey and Pumpkin Black Bean Chili
1-pound ground turkey
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Working in a large pan over medium heat, brown the ground turkey meat, breaking into small pieces.  Add in the diced onion and bell pepper, cooking for 5 minutes until softened.  Add in the can of diced tomatoes and the juices, stir to combine.  Add in the black beans, pumpkin puree, chicken stock, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper, gently stirring to combine.  Cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes.  Taste and adjust spices as desired. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

ChezCindy: Apple Cucumber Salad with Honey Lime Dressing

Apple Cucumber Salad with Honey Lime Dressing

This refreshing salad is a surprising delight.  The recipe is from The Apple Lover's Cookbook by Amy Traverso.  A well written book devoted to apple recipes, apple tips and tools, apple history, and information on how to buy and store apples. 
Ms. Traverso refers to the recipe as an apple salsa.  I found it to be more of a salad than a salsa, as I was eating it for a mid-day snack or a light lunch. 
The use of firm-tart Granny Smith apples allows for the salad to be stored in the refrigerator for several days without breaking down the apples.  The apples and the cucumbers remain crisp, which makes this a great recipe to make ahead for a party or a buffet. 

Apple Cucumber Salad with Honey Lime Dressing
2 large Granny Smith apples, about 1 pound
1 cup diced English seedless cucumber, unpeeled
1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1 teaspoon finely minced jalapeno pepper

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon thinly sliced mint leaves

Core and dice the unpeeled apples.  I leave the skin on the apples and cucumbers as this makes a nice contrast of color.  In a medium bowl, combine the apples, cucumbers, bell pepper and jalapeno pepper; stir to combine.   In a second smaller bowl, combine the fresh squeezed lime juice, honey and salt.  Pour the dressing over the apple mixture and stir to combine.  Add the sliced mint, gently stir.  Serve cold or at room temperature.