Friday, November 27, 2009

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream and Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Belated Thanksgiving!! I hope everyone had an enjoyable day full of good friends, family and food. We have a lot to be thankful for. Speaking of which, here's a pic our little turkey, whose been roasting for 16 weeks now!!
And just because it's too cute to pass up, I'm sneaking in a pic of our little nephew in his very festive turkey day shirt.
Ok now on to the task at hand!
In addition to the traditional pumpkin pies we baked this season, I wanted to try something a little different. Despite everyone saying they couldn't find pumpkin puree, I never had a problem! In fact, I bought so much I had to find ways to use it. This Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream was the perfect fit. I love both ice cream and pumpkin pie so what could be better than the combo?? This tastes exactly like pumpkin pie - except cold and without the crust. It might be fun to serve this in a twill cookie cup or in a cone to give you that "crusty" taste with it. I just ate it straight and it was just delicious and refreshing. While this recipe calls for tons of half and half and heavy cream, I didn't find this ice cream to be too rich. I prefer an ice milk consistency - think Breyers - and I feel like this ice cream had that, while still packing a creamy, flavorful punch. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream
Source: The Food Network website
4 cups half and half
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 vanilla beans
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
7.5 oz canned pumpkin
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
Combine all dairy into a saucepan along with the sugar. Split and scrape the vanilla beans into the dairy and sugar mixture. Bring to 170 degrees F. to dissolve sugar then let cool at room temperature. Chill in the refrigerator overnight. While dairy is heating, grate nutmeg into pumpkin and add the other spices. Mix in a bowl to combine and chill overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, take pumpkin and dairy mixture out. Filter dairy mixture to remove large vanilla bean pieces. Add some of the dairy mixture to the pumpkin and mix well to loosen it up. Then mix both the dairy and pumpkin together. Freeze in your ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer's instructions. Let the ice cream harden for at least two hours unless serving all immediately.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Wagon Wheel Taco Pasta Salad

This recipe from Cara's Cravings blog has been around the food blogosphere a few times. I finally got to give it a try when we went over to a friend's house for a football party. It was the perfect party food! No mayonnaise and nothing in it that can spoil. It can sit out on a buffet and keep just fine.
I did make one addition - I diced up half of a green pepper and added that. I also found it a little dry, so I think next time I would double the dressing recipe to give it a saucier consistency. Overall though, a great go-to recipe for any party or picnic. Enjoy!

Wagon Wheel Taco Pasta Salad
Source: Cara's Cravings
1lb wagon wheel pasta
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 10oz package frozen corn (I don't even bother thawing it, because I always make this at least a few hours before serving, so it plenty of time to defrost)
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
8oz shredded Mexican-blend cheese
1 1/2 cups salsa
1/2 cup olive oil
3-4 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp cumin
1-2 tsp chili powder
2 garlic cloves, minced
freshly ground salt & pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 avocado, diced

Cook the pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.

In a large bowl, combine the black beans, corn, tomatoes, salsa, and cheese. Add the cooled pasta and mix well.

In another bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, garlic, cumin and chili powder. Pour over the pasta salad, add the cilantro, and mix well. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

Just before serving, stir in the diced avocado.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

I saw these on Proud Italian Cook blog. I really love her blog. Beautiful pictures, inspired recipes and good downhome Italian cooking, which is my favorite.
She had this recipe for the butternut squash stuffed shells (click the link above for the recipe) and then one for butternut squash lasagna.
I decided to try the stuffed shells first. These were so delicious and fairly easy to make as well. The main reason I chose the shells was because I figured they'd be pretty easy to divvy up for lunches the next day, if there were leftovers, which there were. So I made these for a family dinner and my mom packed up the leftovers for me and my husband. Little did I know she packed them at the bottom of the box so when we got in late that night from her house, I forgot to remove them and put them in the fridge overnight.
So needless to say, when I discovered them the next night at the bottom of the box, they had to go straight in the trash. I was devastated because they would have made the perfect lunch for the next two days. And it never feels good to throw away food. Oh well. We did enjoy them while they lasted.
The one thing I would do differently next time, well actually two things, I would eliminate the lemon zest. I honestly don't know why I even included it this time around. I'm not a fan of lemon zest to begin with, but Proud Italian Cook really sold me on how it would enhance the dish so I figured what the heck. Unfortunately, as usual, it was too strong of a flavor for me and my husband didn't like the zestiness at all. The other thing I would change was the sauce.
I made a sage brown butter sauce, but I think a nice, creamy bechamel would have served these shells better. I added a bit of chicken stock and lemon juice to my brown butter sauce and it was pretty tasty, but all that butter does make you feel a little weighed down. Nonetheless, this was a great fall dish and perfect for a crowd. Check out her recipe and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pumpkin Coconut Bread That Couldda Been a Contendah

This recipe reminds me of that famous Marlon Brando line from On The Waterfront , "I coulda been somebody. I coulda been a contender!". Just picture this cute little loaf in a leather jacket sitting on a motorcycle.
Why do I say this? Well, because this recipe had a lot of potential but it just quite didn't make the grade. The bread was moist and the coconut flavor was there, but I found it to be way to subtle. I had to think really hard to taste coconut, and that's even after I poured in an extra cup of shredded coconut into the batter! I think it could have benefitted from some more coconut and maybe even a dash of coconut extract or maybe Malibu coconut rum if you're feeling crazy?
On top of that, this bread recipe didn't call for any spices. Not a speck of spice in site! For a pumpkin bread, I found this really odd. Unfortunately, I didn't really think about how odd until after it was baked and I tasted how bland it was. The bread could have been a hundred times better with a few teaspoons of nutmeg, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice. Nothing brought out the great pumpkin flavor. So overall, I would say this bread could have been so much better.

Pumpkin Coconut Bread
Coconut and Lime Blog

Click to Go to Original Recipe

Friday, November 13, 2009

Chicken Dukkah

For some reason this recipe name makes me want to say... dookey. Dookey dookey dookey! Someone dropped a dookey. Ok it's over. I've got it out of my system. Now on to the serious nature of this delicious recipe.
I saw this on Smitten Kitchen blog, who had seen it on Ask Aida on The Food Network. The recipe from Aida, basically has you first dunk some chicken skewers in a mixture of dijon mustard and olive oil and then roll them in the dukkah spice blend that has been mixed with shredded Parmesan cheese. Smitten found the dukkah crust recipe here at 101 Cookbooks, since Aida doesn't give you one.
The whole idea intrigued me, the name made me laugh and overall it just sounded like something different. It combines a ton of fragrant spices with toasted hazelnuts to create a dry, thick spice rub for chicken. You encrust the chicken in this spice rub, bake and serve. I found it healthy, tasty and a nice twist on a traditional chicken dinner.
In fact, I even ended up making a batch of dukkah-crusted chicken breasts a few weeks later with the leftover dukkah and put them in paninis with artichoke hearts, spinach and provolone cheese. They were delicious and the combination of the dukkah with spinach, artichokes and cheese was great.
The crust has a decidedly Middle-eastern type of flavor - fennel seeds, coriander, mint and cumin combine with salt, pepper, and sesame seeds. On Smitten Kitchen she served it with a balsamic reduction sauce, but I found the chicken stayed quite juicy and the spicy crust provided more than enough flavor.
You can use the dukkah crust as an herb dip with bread as well. Just put a few tablespoons of the dukkah in a bowl and cover with olive oil for dipping pita or fresh baked bread. Enjoy!

Chicken with a Dukkah Crust
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
24 chicken tenders, also called chicken tenderloins
1 cup Dukkah (recipe below)
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (Deb note: I skipped this, as a dinner guest does not mix milk and meat)

For the chicken skewers:
1. 24 metal or bamboo skewers (if using bamboo skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes before using)
2. Heat oven to 350°F.
3. In a shallow bowl, combine the mustard and olive oil, and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss the chicken in the mustard mixture until well coated.
4. Combine the dukkah and Parmigiano-Reggiano in a wide, shallow dish and mix thoroughly. Roll each tender in the dukkah mix until well coated.
5. Thread a chicken tender on each skewer. Place the chicken skewers on wire cooling racks. Nest each wire rack in a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake until the meat is firm and the dukkah crust is golden, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Dukkah Spice Blend
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup coriander seeds
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon dried mint leaves
1 teaspoon salt

Heat a heavy skillet over high heat, add the hazelnuts, and dry-toast until slightly browned and fragrant, being careful that they don't burn. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Repeat the procedure with each of the seeds and the peppercorns. Allow each of them to cool completely.

Place the nuts and seeds, along with the mint and salt, into a mortar and pound until the mixture is crushed. Or pulse in a food processor to a coarse consistency; do not allow the mixture to become a paste.

Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 1 month.

Yield: 1 cup.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Coconut Shrimp

On Halloween night, my husband and I hid away at my mother's house. Mainly because she gets a limited number of trick-or-treaters (and when I say limited I mean she got about 50 kids), whereas in my neighborhood we get into the 100s. I live in a townhouse community, so it's insane the amount of kids that come knocking on the door. One year we stayed home to give out candy. I probably spent about $60 on candy and ran out in two hours. We then had to hid upstairs with the lights off in the hopes that they would stop ringing the doorbell! In addition to that, opening and closing the door to service these little costumed bands of children is made even that more difficult by the fact that I have three cats. Let me add to that, three cats who like to try to escape every time the front door lingers open. Not a good combination. So, we went to my mother's, handed out candy and cooked up some finger foods to munch on. Among those, was this Coconut Shrimp that I found at Food Network .
Instead of frying them like the recipe calls for, we baked them. It was less messy and better for you as well. The coconut flavor was perfect and we baked them on 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, until the coconut coating was crisp and beginning to brown.
The only thing we really didn't like about this recipe was the accompanying dipping sauce. The orange marmalade was way too potent and just didn't go well with the shrimp. Next time, I may make some kind of pineapple or mango puree sauce instead. Other than that though, the shrimp were crispy and tasty. Enjoy!

Neely's Jumbo Coconut Shrimp
The Neelys, Food Network
Peanut oil, for frying
1 1/2 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
4 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon granulated garlic powder
Zesty Dipping Sauce, recipe follows
Preheat oil in a deep-fryer to 350 degrees F.

Butterfly shrimp and set aside.

In medium bowl mix together panko and coconut. In another medium bowl beat eggs and dash of salt and pepper. In a third bowl mix flour, onion and garlic powder together. Dredge shrimp in flour, then eggs, then the bread crumbs.

Place in preheated deep-fryer and fry, in batches, until crisp and golden brown; 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on a paper towel-lined sheet tray. Serve hot with Zesty Dipping Sauce on the side.

Zesty Dipping Sauce:

1 (6-ounce) jar orange marmalade
1/4 cup sweet Asian chili sauce
1 lime, juiced
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Caramel Pumpkin Seeds with Macadamia Nuts

I know these are a bit late, since Halloween is now over, but I just had to share because they were so tasty. Be warned though, eating too many pumpkin seeds may do a number on your stomach.
I found the hulls a bit rough to digest even though they are edible - and these sticky little morsels are so easy to overindulge on that you may find your stomach seed-filled before you know it. I thought this was a great alternative to traditional roasted pumpkin seeds and I'll definitely be making this easy recipe again next year. And I have to say, I normally don't find many of Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade recipes enticing, but once in a while she has a zinger that really intrigues me. This is one of those times and I'm glad I went with my instincts on this one. Sandra hit a semi-homemade home run here. Enjoy!

Caramelized Pumpkin Seeds
Sandra Lee, Semi-Homemade,
1/2 cup butterscotch caramel sauce

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon extract

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 cups pumpkin seeds, roasted

1 cup almonds, crushed (I used macadamia nuts because it's all I had around)

Lightly coat baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large skillet, slowly melt the caramel sauce and sugar. When melted stir in cinnamon extract and cayenne. Continue cooking until mixture reaches a temperature of 310 degrees F. Stir in pumpkin seeds until completely coated. Spread caramelized seeds onto the baking sheet and sprinkle with crushed almonds. Separate seeds with wooden spoon until cooled.

Cook's Notes:

Melted sugar is very hot. Please use extreme caution when handling and pouring. Pumpkin seeds may be purchased already roasted. If using the seeds from a jack-o-lantern, rinse and clean seeds. Place on a baking sheet, lightly coated with cooking spray, in a preheated 250 degree F oven. Roast seeds for about 1 hour stirring every 15 minutes. The actual seed of the pumpkin is inside the hull. The hull is edible.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fall at Longwood Gardens

We took a trip to Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania a few weekends ago to see their pumpkin display and check out the fall foliage. If you live nearby, it's a great place to walk through on a beautiful, sunny day. They have tons of gardens and a grand conservatory with a myriad of flowers, plus a topiary garden and in the summer and spring, an elaborate fountain garden dances for visitors. Here are a few pics from our recent visit.