Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

She is SO excited to be Rapunzel and just loves "the hair."  

Little sister hated putting on the dinosaur costume.  I have stuff to make her a little black cat as a back up.  We'll see what happens when it comes time for the Halloween party we're going to this morning.  

Scarecrow big sister . . . buying our pumpkins at Trader Joe's.  I'm a little bummed we didn't make it to a pumpkin patch this year, but I'm sure there will be plenty of years to do that.  

Both girls were really into carving pumpkins . . . for about 3 minutes.  Big sister picked the pumpkins, drew the faces, pulled one handful of goop out of the inside, and waited for it to get dark so we could light the candles inside.  It's still weird to me how little kids' memories work.  She remembers what she was for Halloween last year and trick-or-treating, but she doesn't ever remember carving a pumpkin (and we've done it every year).  Here's what my kids looked like a year ago

I'm surprised that I haven't posted pumpkin pancakes ever - you know how we love pancakes around here.  I've made a few versions of these (and there are a few mixes out there like the TJs one that are quite good) but this recipe is probably my best.  I started with half cup of milk and added about a quarter cup more.  Play with the liquid until it pours the way you like it.  The recipe is easily doubled.  This batch fed 2 of us on 2 mornings (putting the batter in the refrigerator overnight actually made it taste even better the next morning).

Pumpkin Pancakes (makes about 12 medium sized pancakes)
Source:  I think from All Recipes?  Not sure

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon and 1-1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine milk, pumpkin, egg, oil, and vinegar.  In another bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients.  Make a well and add the wet ingredients.  Stir until just combined.  Let set about 5 minutes.  If the batter is too thick, add a little more milk.  Cook on a buttered skillet until bubbles appear.  Flip.  Eat warm with maple syrup.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkin Banana Bread

After that birthday interlude, we return to our regularly scheduled programming of pumpkin recipes:

I know pumpkin banana bread sounds weird . . . I was conflicted about making banana bread with my 2 ripe bananas or making pumpkin bread because, well, it sounded good.  I googled "pumpkin banana bread" and got tons of hits.  I guess it's a thing and I didn't know it really existed.  It turned out really good.  I think it needs something mixed in (a half cup of nuts or cranberries or chocolate chips?) but I'm sure I'll be making it again soon.  Try it.  It's weird but you'll like it.

Pumpkin Banana Bread (1 large loaf or 3 small loaves)
Original recipe here

2 ripe bananas
1 c. pumpkin puree
1/4 c. canola oil
2 eggs
2/3 c. sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Put the bananas, pumpkin, oil, eggs, and sugar in a bowl and beat with a mixer until well combined.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the rest of the ingredients.  Stir into the pumpkin banana mixture until just combined.  Pour into greased loaf pans.  Bake 25-30 minutes for small loaf pans or about a hour for a large loaf pan.

Monday, October 24, 2011

My niece's birthday cake

How precious is my niece?!?  Being an aunt is the best and I feel blessed that my niece and nephew live nearby and I can see them often.  On Thursday nights, we have dinner at my parent's with my brother, sister-in-law, niece & nephew, and my grandmother.  I look forward to it all week and it's extra fun when we have a birthday to celebrate.  My niece turned 3 this past week and my sister in law brought this dessert.  I wanted to share the recipe because the tart was so delicious, and gluten free (it was much better than the grocery store cake big sister begged for . . . shhhh . . . don't tell).

The dessert is rich so you'll be able to get more servings out of this than something lighter of this size.  We had it with vanilla ice cream but whipped cream would be good too.  The jam part at the end is optional.  I left in the ingredient notes from my sister-in-law's friend Abby (thanks for the recipe!) in case you have dairy sensitivities.

Chocolate Raspbery Tart with Pecan Crust (8-12 servings)

2 cups pecans, toasted
6 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted (or ghee)
3/4 heavy cream - if using goats milk use 1/2 cup since it's thinner
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped 
1 pint raspberries (or strawberries, blueberries or combo)
1/4 cup seedless jam (optional)
whipped cream (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Process pecans, brown sugar, and cinnamon until finely ground then add melted butter until just moist
2. Press crust into 9 -inch removable bottom tart pan (or spring form or a regular pan if you don't have one)
3. Bake until golden brown - about 25 mins and cool on rack
4. Bring cream to a simmer, remove from heat and add chocolate - stir until smooth
5. Pour chocolate over cooled crust and refrigerate until chocolate has hardened
6. Arrange berries on chocolate.
7. If using jam, heat if over low heat in saucepan to make it easy to spread
8. Using pastry brush, brush jam over berries
9. Serve with whipped cream - optional

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

I tried out this recipe on some friends when we had brunch and watched football a few weeks ago.  It truly felt like fall.  My friend S told me that she had N.E.V.E.R. had a cinnamon roll.  Seriously.  And, she grew up in a normal family in the midwest and not in Tanzania or somewhere.  Seriously.  So, you know I had to remedy that problem!  I think she liked them - at least she pretended to :)

Things I learned from making these cinnamon rolls:
a.  I need a new rolling pin
b.  I'm not that good at rolling out dough (clearly the rolling pin's fault)
c.  I'm more patient with food than I sometimes am with my kids
d.  Pumpkin flavored baked goods are amazing and a total portal into the land of dietary backsliding
e.  Cream cheese frosting makes everything taste better, but not necessarily look better
f.  If you say you're making pumpkin cinnamon rolls, friends who haven't been over in awhile will come over for brunch
g.  Make more than you think your group will eat
h.  The pictures on someone else's blog are way prettier than the ones on my own.
i.  Yeast dough isn't as bad as I make it out to be in my head.

Ok, life lessons aside, here's the nitty gritty on this recipe.  I followed it exactly in terms of ingredients and amounts.  After I formed the rolls, I put the pans in the refrigerator overnight.  The next morning, it took a good 2 hours or so for the dough to reach room temperature and rise.  I had to turn the oven on low, turn it off, and put the pans on the open oven door.  The pumpkin flavor was a little more subtle than I thought it would be but the spices were good and these were amazing, even without frosting.  Next time, I think I might do the brown sugar, butter, pecan on the bottom of the pan thing (or maybe try them in muffin tins?).

You can find the full recipe with gorgeous photos here on Bree's food blog.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pumpkin time!

Fall baking is one of my favorite things.  I've been eating too much sugary sweet baked stuff lately, so I've been trying to hold myself back from doing too much baking because in our house, I inevitably eat most of whatever I bake.  I did make pumpkin cinnamon rolls and the recipe & photos are coming soon.  But, I wanted to give you this list of pumpkin recipes already on the blog to inspire you to try something new this season.

Baked Goods:
Iced Pumpkin Biscuits (no white flour or sugar)
Pumpkin shaped cake (fun food craft project)
Pumpkin Cookies (2 versions - the best!)
Pumpkin Crumb Cake (super popular every time I make it)
Pumpkin Bundt Cake (easy fall dessert or brunch item)
Pumpkin Cupcakes (not going to lie - from a cake mix)
Pumpkin Zucchini Carrot Bread (a little healthier but still yum)
Pumpkin Banana Bread (another pumpkin quick bread)

Lamb Chops with Apricot Pumpkin Glaze
Penne with Pumpkin & Sage
Pumpkin with cheese fondue (if you only make one recipe on this list, try this)

Other (both are gf):
Sweet & Spicy Pumpkin Seeds (amazing)
Pumpkin Ice Cream 

What are your kids going to be for Halloween?  I think big sister is going to be Rapunzel and little sister is going to be a black cat (kitten).

Sunday, October 16, 2011

World Food Day

Today is World Food Day - a day dedicated to raising awareness about world wide hunger.

Did you know that one child dies every five seconds from hunger or malnourishment?  That there are over 1 billion people in the world without enough to eat?  That nearly one in four children in the US live in families who struggle to put food on the table?

I encourage you to make a difference by donating to your local food bank.  Non-perishable sources of protein (canned meat or fish, beans, etc.) are most needed.  Click here for locations where you can donate food for the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank.

Check out these sites for more information about hunger:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Some fall sights around our house

Big sister doing some rock climbing

Little sister typically carries around and wears a bunch of accessories

Bike rides down the driveway

Crockpot meals

For the last year or so, big transitions have taken me awhile and with each one, I'm sure my blog isn't going to survive.  But, the dust settles, we get into a routine, and I'm back writing and posting.  I started back to work with fall quarter a couple of weeks ago and the new schedule has taken awhile for us all to get used to.  I'm blessed that my husband watches the girls while I work and that I have work in this economy so I can't complain but we're still adjusting.

One of the rough things are our dinners from Sunday - Wednesday.  On Sundays, we get home from church around 6:30, on Mondays and Wednesdays, my husband starts dinner and I get home from work around 7pm and on Tuesdays, we go to the gym until about 6:30.  The crockpot has been really coming in handy and this is a new dish I made up a few weeks ago.  Perfect for fall, gluten free, and easy to add / change the veggies to what your family will eat.  Hope it helps you out during this busy time of the year!

Chicken and Butternut Squash Stew (6 servings)

1.25 pounds boneless skinless chicken pieces (I used thighs)
1.5 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 in. pieces 
1 small onion, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 oz can chicken broth
3/4 c. tomatoes (I put these in the blender so it was more like juice - you could use V8 or leave them chunky)
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. allspice
1 c. frozen peas

Put the butternut squash, onions, and celery in the crock pot.  Put the chicken pieces on top.  Cover with the garlic, broth, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and spices.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours.  Cooking time will vary depending on your slow cooker but you want the squash to be soft and the chicken to start to shred.  Stir in the frozen peas, stir, and cook for another 15 minutes or so.  If you want the stew to be more soupy, add a little water (or more broth) when you add the peas.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Tortellini & Veggies

Tortellini and ravioli are sort of a cop out homemade meal in our house.  Usually, it's just boiling a big pot of water and heating up some sauce from a jar.  A little better than take out or frozen pizza, but not much.  However, I'm pretty proud of this tortellini recipe.  It's been a favorite around here for a long time but I hadn't made it in quite awhile.

Ingredient note:  I used a natural refrigerated pasta brand I hadn't used before (whatever that Natural Vons brand is . . . not the "O" organics but the other one) and the actual tortellini was sort of lousy (the cheese filling was really chewy not creamy) so go with Buitoni or something you know you like.

Tortellini & Veggies (4 servings)

1 c. chopped onion
1 8oz package of sliced mushrooms
3/4 c. red pepper cut in chunks
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
9oz package of refrigerated cheese tortellini
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. red wine
2 tsp italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 small zucchini
1/2 c. shredded Asiago or Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and cook onions, mushrooms, red pepper and garlic over medium high heat for about 5 minutes or until the onion is tender.  Stir in undrained tomatoes, tortellini, water, wine, and seasonings.

Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, simmer covered for 10 minutes.  While tortellini is simmering, cut your zucchini in half lengthwise and then in slices.  Stir the zucchini in and cook for 5 minutes more uncovered (until zucchini is crisp tender).  Sprinkle with cheese before serving.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Greek Lamb Pilaf

I wasn't expecting this meal to be as awesome as it turned out.  For me, this is comfort food at it's finest and a perfect fall dish.  It only takes about a half hour to cook if you chop up stuff ahead of time and you can make it in one pan.  The leftovers didn't last long in our house!

If you're not a big fan of lamb or haven't tried it before, lean ground lamb is a good introduction to the flavor without it being overbearing.  If you're particularly averse, you could use lean ground beef in its place.  The dish is gluten free (as long as you use GF broth) and the nutrition information from Cooking Light says this is about 440 calories/serving and 26 grams of protein.

Greek Lamb Pilaf (4 servings)
(from Cooking Light 6/08)

2 c. chopped onion (about 1 large)
3/4 c. chopped carrot (about 1 large)
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 pound lean ground lamb
1 c. uncooked long-grain rice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (14 oz) can chicken broth (low-sodium)
1 c. chopped plum tomato (about 1)
1/4 c. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 T chopped fresh mint
3 T fresh lemon juice
3/4 tsp. salt

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add first 4 ingredients to pan; cook 5 minutes, stirring to crumble lamb.  Stir in rice and cinnamon and saute for 2 minutes.  Stir in chicken broth; bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

Remove from heat; stir in chopped tomato, parsley, mint, lemon juice and salt.  Cover and let stand 5 minutes before serving.