Archive for November, 2011

I hosted Thanksgiving this year, for the first time ever.  I was pretty excited because I have been wanting to try making cheesy pumpkin dip for at least two years, but it’s not really something you can make and bring to someone else’s place.  This dip is pretty simple, but it is so ingenious (not to mention tasty) that everyone will be chattering about it all afternoon.

What you need:

  • A sugar pumpkin (or two, we had 9 people, double the following for two pumpkins)
  • Bread, any kind really, about 4 slices
  • Garlic, minced
  • Italian seasoning, just a pinch or two
  • Nutmeg, about a teaspoon
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 6 ounces cheese: I used cheddar cubes and grated romano
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • Salt & pepper
  • crackers, crostini, etc for serving

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Cut the top off the pumpkin and keep it.  Scoop out the seeds, but no need to worry about all the stringies as long as the seeds are gone.
  3. Cube bread and cheese.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the following together: bread, cheese, spices. garlic, breadcrumbs, basically everything but the cream.
  5. Add mixture into the pumpkin, and really pack it in as much as you can.
  6. Add heavy cream to pumpkin, put top back on pumpkin (I secured mine with toothpicks).
  7. Place pumpkin in a dutch oven, or pyrex dish that you don’t mind serving it in and bake for 60 – 90 minutes.
  8. After it’s done, stir up the dip, and scrape the inside of the pumpkin to get the pumpkin meat off.  Stir again, then serve!

Hope everyone had a great holiday!  Here are some more pictures of some of the other stuff I served.

Creamed corn w/ parmesan

Simple salad with home made croutons

Garlic red mashed potatoes

Green beans sauteed in bacon fat, topped with parmesan and bacon bits

honey glazed carrots



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Baked Shrimp & Chickpeas

I have had a giant can of chickpeas sitting in the cupboard for at least 6 months since I went crazy in the canned food section of Smart & Final.  It worked out because I also have been meaning to try out this recipe from Food Network Magazine!  This is a really simple one to crank out for a weeknight dinner.  If you happen to have frozen shrimp (which defrost super quick), you probably have everything on hand to make it, too.

What you need:

  • 2 normal (15 oz) cans of chickpeas, or one gigantor (29 oz) can
  • 1 to 1.5 pounds of shrimp, raw & peeled
  • as much garlic as you can stand, for me this was about 3 tablespoons of minced garlic
  • 2 lemon’s worth of zest
  • 1 lemon’s worth of juice
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, depending on how spicy you like things
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley
  • 1/2 or so of breadcrumbs
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • lemon wedges for serving

What to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450.
  2. Rinse the chickpeas thoroughly.  Add to a large baking dish (I used a 9×13 pyrex) and spray/drizzle with olive oil and a bit of salt.  Make sure they are arranged in a thin layer.  Bake for 20 – 25 mins.
  3. While the chickpeas are baking, marinate the shrimp in the lemon juice and zest, red peppers, the garlic and a tablespoon or two of olive oil.
  4. When the chickpeas are done, add a layer of the shrimp and any extra marinade on top.  Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.  Bake for another 7 – 8 minutes.
  5. When it’s done baking, take it out of the oven and top with the parsley.  Serve with lemon wedges for more juice to taste.

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PUMPKINS!!!  I have wanted to cook with pumpkins for years, but I could never find the right kind of pumpkins.  You can’t just use jack o lantern ones, because they don’t taste good, don’t have much meat and are watery and yucky.  But this year it seems that all my local grocers finally got with it.  There are sugar pumpkins everywhere!  I am still on the search for a cheese pumpkin, though…

I was perusing the interwebs, looking for a cool recipe to try out and stumbled upon this one, which I adapted for this dish.  Also, ricotta was on sale at Sprouts, so it was perfect.  I actually roasted my own pumpkin and made the puree the day before.  You can google instructions on how to roast a pumpkin, but it’s basically exactly like roasting a spaghetti squash, only without the salt and pepper.  I roasted two 2-3lb sugar pumpkins and it made double the amount needed for this recipe (popped the rest in the freezer for later).

pumpkin puree!

What you need:

  • 16 ounces of whatever type of pasta you prefer (although shorter noodles like penne or bowtie are better)
  • 4 – 6 cups of ricotta
  • 15 ounces or about 2 cups of pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 ounces yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (about a bulb)
  • 3/4 – 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 cup of mozzarella or a few ounces of heavy cream
  • About 1/2 a cup of breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil
  • Ground pepper

What to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 and lightly oil a 9×13 baking dish or pan.
  2. Cook the pasta VERY al dente, and drain.  Add back into the pot and toss with a bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking.
  3. In a larger bowl whisk the following together; ricotta, mozzarella, pumpkin puree, eggs & yogurt.
  4. Add the salt, nutmeg, pepper, ginger, italian seasoning, garlic, parmesan and almonds and stir until combined.
  5. Add contents of bowl to pasta pot and stir into pasta until thoroughly mixed.  
  6. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.
  7. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top.
  8. Bake for about 35 minutes.


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Farmhouse White Bread

OMG you guys – I made bread.  Wheeeeeeeee!  I got the recipe from this super awesome book, The Mixer Bible.  Can you believe it’s the only cook book I own?  Anyway, if you have a kitchen-aid or other stand mixer, you need this book.  So onto the bread… That I made…. From SCRATCH.  I am very proud of myself, even though it was pretty easy.  I had my mom’s breadmaker for like a year and had so many failed attempts with that damn thing (plus it’s so huge and only serves one purpose – lame).  Making the bread with the kitchenaid/ oven wasn’t that much more effort, but it made 2x as much bread, and I think it tastes better, and it was extremely satisfying.

What you need:

  • 2 loaf pans
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 packet of active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water – 100 degrees is best (digital thermometers are awesome, you guys)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 5 – 6 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon butter softened
  • stand mixer
  • very helpful to have a digital thermometer

What to do:

  1. In a small saucepan, heat milk and the 1/4 C butter over medium heat until butter is melted. Let cool to around 100 degree F.  Do this absolutely first, because it takes forever for it to cool down.  While it’s cooling you can start prepping for everything else.
  2. In the mixer bowl, stir together yeast, water and sugar. Let stand until yeast begins to foam, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add warm milk mixture and salt. Attach the flat beater and mixer bowl to the mixer. Set to speed 2 and mix until well combined.
  4. Add 4 cups of flour, 1/2 cup at a time and mix until a dough forms.  I lost count when I was doing this, so my flour might have been a 1/2 cup off, so don’t worry about messing it up too much, because my bread was still perfect.
  5. Remove the flat beater and attach the dough hook. Set to speed 2 and knead, adding flour 1/2 C at a time until dough forms a smooth and elastic ball that cleans the bowl. Continue to knead for 2 minutes, adding flour 1 tbsp at a time as necessary to keep dough from clinging to the bowl. You can tell when it’s ready when, for the most part, it starts pulling away from the bowl, instead of sticking to it.
  6. Using your hands, form dough into a ball. Place back in the mixer bowl, rub with softened butter and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in bulk.  (At this point I just put it in the fridge overnight.  When I took it out, I let it warm up/ rise for another hour before continuing on to step 7.)
  7. Uncover dough and punch down several times to work out air bubbles. Form back into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.  And as far as the timing for the rise goes, it’s definitely variable.  In my place, it always takes at least double the suggested time.  You can’t really let it rise too much, so just make sure it’s roughly double in size.
  8. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and cut in half. As you work with one piece of dough, keep the other covered. Working with one piece at a time, pat dough into a 10×8 inch rectangle. Starting with a long side, roll dough up jelly-roll style, then fold under the ends. Pinch the seams closed and place in prepared loaf pan, seam side down.
  9. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 45-60 minutes, or until the top of the dough is nearly level with the top of the loaf pan. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  10. Using a pastry brush, coat tops of loaves with the beaten egg.

    See how much they need to rise?

  11. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until loaves are golden and reach an internal temperature of 200 degrees F. Remove from pans and let cool completely on wire racks before slicing.

    SO GOOD, and makes your house smell warm and homey

Suggested variations:

  • Herb Bread: Add 1 tsp each dried oregano, basil and thyme to the milk and butter in step 1.
  • Cheese Bread: Before rolling dough in step 5, sprinkle each half with 3/4 C any shredded cheese of your choice.
  • Cinnamon Bread: Before rolling dough in step 5, sprinkle each half with a mixture of 1/3 C granulated sugar and 2 tsp ground cinnamon.

I can’t wait to try again and experiment with adding herbs or spices!  Hope you enjoy!

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If you didn’t already realize I love garlic, then you may not be a very good reader.  So here is my newest obsession to use up the huge bag of garlic I always buy at Costco.  The uses are probably endless, so let me know if you come up with any gems!

What you need:

  • 1 cup of butter, softened
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons of garlic
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Hungarian paprika

What to do:

  1. Put everything in a bowl and mix it together.  That’s it.  I used my kitchenaid stand mixer, which worked beautifully.  

What you can do with the garlic butter:

  • Make garlic bread: spread butter on top of french bread and bake for 10 minutes

    Before baking

  • Add some acid and use as a marinade
  • Spread on top of fish before baking (deliiiiiicious)
  • Put a few dollops on top of veggies before sauteing, roasting or steaming
  • Add some to rice before cooking
  • Eat it with a spoon, hah, kidding!

Here is the finished product of garlic butter tilapia and garlic butter roasted veggies

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