Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween Hot Chocolate

For some reason in high school, I thought that sewing would be more spectacular than something as practical as typing, so I signed up. The most important thing that I learned that year had nothing to do with needles and thread. I learned that Mrs. Mitchell did not like anyone to sit on the tables, under any circumstance. "Get your buns off the table," is what I gleaned from my first year of sewing instructions.
Years later, in college, having not sewn a single blessed thing since high school (but for the most part keeping my buns off of tables), my little sister signed up for sewing 101. Somehow, she got the notion that I should sign up for sewing too. I had zero interest, since my high school sewing class was anything but riveting.
She told me that college sewing would be Fun! and that sewing is a very Practical! and Useful! Skill, but I wasn't convinced. And then she dropped the bomb: "If you don't learn how to sew, then your kids will have to wear plastic costumes for Halloween."
I didn't have any kids. I wasn't sure if or when I would have kids, but I knew one thing for certain. One day, if and when I did have kids, I sure as heck didn't want them wandering around town in plastic costumes one night a year.
It was a real possibility. Plastic costumes were all that were available when I was growing up; if your mother didn't make your costume or you didn't forage for one through the family closets, then you were left with a slick and flimsy grocery store costume, much like a disposable party tablecloth. Had I known then that by the time I finally had children that Disney was going to be making Practical, Useful and Gorgeous costumes, AND selling them at Target for ridiculously affordable prices, I never would have signed up for that sewing class.
And by the way, sewing 101 was not a success. My sister and I, anxious for A grades, did extra credit, completed all our sewing projects neatly (kind of) and on time. We even went to our instructor's house for an optional project, just for brownie points. Imagine our dismay when we both-BOTH of us got C pluses in sewing! Mrs. Rosen claimed that we did a terrible job on our final, and deep down I knew she was right. We had to sew a puny shirt with buttons and zipper that would only fit on a Ken Barbie. Criminy-I wasn't trying to sew Barbie clothes-just Halloween costumes! C plus! Grumble, grumble!Yes, my undergrad GPA suffered, but it turned out all right in the end. My two little charges have never ever had to wear a plastic tablecloth costume.
C-plus crooked seams and lopsided sleeves, yes. But plastic, no. Phew. Happy Halloween! Keep safe tonight everybody! My Halloween hot chocolate is more of an "idea" than a recipe. Toss a couple of pieces of Halloween candy in the bottom of your mug to make an extra special cup of hot chocolate.My favorites are Reese's peanut butter cups, Butterfingers, Whoppers or Hershey Bars. A bit of whipped cream and orange and black sprinkles make it extra pretty.
Here're a few pics of my Obi Wan and Belle at the Spooktacular concert....
See you after the weekend !

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Roasted Tomato and Corn Vegetarian Chili in the Slow Cooker

I really shouldn't qualify chili. Yesterday I said I was making my favorite vegetarian chili. And while this is cross-my-heart true for today, I can't promise anything for tomorrow. I'm like a star struck teeny bopper with a Hollywood magazine when it comes to chili-I want it all. Vegetarian, meaty, filled with beans or without, with a pinch of chocolate, with a spoonfull of hot pepper, I do not descriminate against the homemade of any variety. But here's my current heart-throb favorite. Not only is this chili roasty-toasty, delicious and spicey, but it's also incredibly healthful and easy to make. You'll simply roughly chop some vegetables and roast them in the oven in olive oil and chile powder. Mix the roasted veggies with a few cans of this and that in the crockpot and walk away for a few hours or even all day. Voila! If you're serving chili on Halloween night, always be sure to include a vegetarian option for non-meat eaters. You'd be surprised how many carnivores will opt for the veggie brew also. I've learned to hide it in a corner of the kitchen. Happy Halloween Eve!
Money Saving Tips: Cook and freeze your own beans from dried to save money. Shop case sales for canned items. You can get canned beans and canned tomatoes go for 50 cents a piece by buying a case. Any color of bell pepper will work here; I chose green since the were two for a dollar this week. You can use broth, a bouillion cube with water, or even a can of V8 for your liquid.
Roasted Tomato and Corn Vegetarian Chili in the Slow Cooker
Estimated Cost: $5.00 for four servings
Notes: Chili powder heat varies greatly, so let your tastebuds guide the quantity you use.
1 (14 ounce can) Mexican style diced tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
1 and 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-4 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 minced hot pepper, such as serrano, if desired
2 cans (14 ounces) undrained beans, any variety such as pinto, black, or kidney, undrained
1 cup vegetable broth or V8
Drain the tomatoes, pouring the juices directly into the slow cooker. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with foil. Place the tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, corn and garlic on the cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with chili powder and salt and pepper to taste. Roast in the oven until vegetables are softened and speckled with brown, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Combine vegetables and remaining ingredients in slow cooker. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8. TASTE FOR SEASONING BEFORE SERVING. Add salt, pepper, or more chili powder if needed. Serve with sour cream and green onions if desired.
And here's a sneak peek at my Sailor girl's Belle Costume, as she's on her way out the door to voice lessons. I think I should rename it "Get Down and Groovy Disco Belle", since the gold glitter fabric is a teensy bit over the top, but hey, I'm trying to compete with Disney here. Please try to ignore the crooked homemade slip that is hanging out of the bottom on one side. And those "antlers" coming out of her head are really just my swirly front door. Tonight she'll join her brother, Jedi Master Obi Wan Kenobi, in the Halloween Spooktacular Concert with the Southwest Symphony. I wish you could see them up there, getting my money's worth out of all the violin lessons.
Coming Tomorrow:
Halloween Hot Chocolate
And how my little sister convinced me to sew costumes with just one sentence....

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween Supper-Upper-Upper

Growing up, my generous parents would host an open-to-all front lawn Halloween party, complete with grilled hamburgers and hotdogs, chili, cinnamon rolls and the like. Trick or treaters would march up in hordes to our house on the hill for a savory break from their sacks of candy. It didn't matter if they knew my family are not. There were some people that we only knew because of the Halloween party. Everyone, strangers and kin alike, was welcome. (You can read more about our Halloween party here on my Rachael Ray blog project. Click on Timely Traditions.) When I grew up and had a house of my own, we hosted a Halloween party too. But now that we live across the street from my parents, well, I'll just do what comes naturally and let mom and dad take charge. Actually, this year's will be a bit bigger than usual, since the Halloween night party is being combined with a church trunk or treat activity, all right across the street from my house and right in front of my parent's home. My dad is still going to grill his burgers, but this year they are stepping up to popcorn and cotton candy machines as well. I'm not even sure what to pass out to trick-or-treaters, since I'm pretty sure they will be getting all that they could possibly want across the street. King Sized Candy Bars? Quarters? Fruit Roll Ups? Nintendo DS for all? Maybe I should just give up and pass out chewable vitamins and toothbrushes.
I'll be conjuring up a few different versions of chili for the party, like this yummy chicken and green chile slow-cooker version. I credit a Martha Stewart recipe for the idea of using dried beans and a little flour for thickening in the slow cooker. It works like a charm. Since the kids are not even remotely interested in eating dinner before trick or treating, an easy crock pot recipe is ideal, since dinner is hot and ready now or later.
Chicken and Green Chile Slow Cooker Chili
Estimated Cost: $6.00 for 4 servings
Money Saving Tips: This one relies on dried pinto beans so it's budget friendly already, especially if you've got chicken and canned green chilies on hand. Green salsa is also called salsa verde, but you can also use canned green enchilada sauce.
1 and 1/2 cup dried pinto beans
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup chopped green chilies, or 1 (7 ounce) can
1 cup green salsa (Herdez is my favorite) or green enchilada sauce
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried cumin
3/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken
if desired sour cream, chopped cilantro, tabasco for serving
Coat the inside of your slow cooker with cooking spray. Combine beans, broth, flour, chilies, salsa, onion, and cumin. Place chicken on top. Cover and cook on high for 4-6 hours, or low for 8-10 hours. Remove lid and reach in to the crock pot and shred chicken with fork. Stir into chili taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper if needed and serve.
Give the kids some tortillas and scissor and let them cut Halloween shapes. Sprinkle with a little chili powder and bake until crispy.
And one more kid friendly lunch idea.: Let your bigger kids cut the shape of a Jack-O lantern out of a slice of cheddar cheese. Place it on a toasted English muffin and smear it with a smidge or barbecue sauce. Broil until cheese is melted and add a little green onion stem.
And a little peek at last night's activities: Here's my little cowboy and his goblin pumpkin...
And here's my Sailor-girl. She's dressed in a very old Snow White costume (not her Halloween costume-just an old dress-up number) and holding a Snow White Minnie-doll to carve her Snow White pumpkin....
Disney pumpkin carving kits give you little translucent eye and lip inserts. They look eerie in the day time, but at night they really work. You can see them a little better below....
Coming Tomorrow:
More Halloween Dinner: My Favorite Vegetarian Chili

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween Cupcakes

The clock is about to strike midnight. It's almost the witching hour. Sign up for Tuesdays with Dorie now, before you miss the chance to bake on the cheap with our rowdy crew of spirited bakers. Eerily enough, the deadline is Halloween. Egads, did I hear a thunder clap?
This week's assignment, from Clara at I heart Cuppycakes, couldn't have come at a more opportune time. I don't need extra reasons to bake chocolate buttermilk cupcakes with chocolate frosting, but it was actually my turn to bring cupcakes to the "young women" at church for the monthly "Cupcake Sunday." If you ever want to bake for a grateful crowd, choose teenager girls. I thought they might break out into a fist fight-in church, no less- over which cupcakes was whose, and whose cupcake was which, and who saw which one first, and which one had more of this and that. I sat on the back row grinning. You have to love food that inspires such heart felt irreverence. I spent Saturday churning out cupcakes, 36 to be exact. Exactly the number I need to bring to church, and not one extra. Not one. By Saturday night, my home was filled with chocolatey sadness and gooey jealousy. And it wasn't just me either. The Quiet Man and the little charges were also quite put out, not to mention their five visiting cousins. Even my mom popped by and asked if she might have a cupcake and I had to turn her down. Have you ever seen such cruelty? But at 9 PM, I cracked under the pressure. I made another batch, a fourth batch of Dorie's cupcake so that we could all enjoy a late night cupcake feast. Chocolatey sadness was replaced with chocolatey joy and gooey delight outshone the previous jealousy. We licked our candy coated wounds and went to bed completely content.
So head on over to Clara's and get this contentment-in-a- cupcake recipe for yourself. And make extra, because you'll be sure to have no shortage of takers.
Estimated Cost for my fellow penny pinchers: $5.00 for 12.
Notes: I used orange colored vanilla candy melts, melted into a squeeze bottle and piped onto waxed paper, for the words and letters.
Coming Tomorrow:
Halloween Supper Upper Upper

Monday, October 27, 2008

Buttermilk Donuts with Maple Glaze

An important distinction:Because I sew my two little charge's Halloween costumes, I feel I have left my readers with the mistaken notion that I am an accomplished seamstress. Nothing could be further from the truth. There's a reason why I almost only sew Halloween costumes. My costumes look unmistakably homemade. (Photographic evidence coming later this week.) There's a certain kitschy charm to a less than perfect looking costume, made by a frazzled mum too frugal for Disney store prices. For this reason I cannot sew clothing for every day useage. Those uneven hems and lopslided sleeves, so endearing on October 31st, look like something out of the Grapes or Wrath every other day of the year. And while I'm a not much better than mediocre seamstress, I confess to another talent: I am pretty good at making donuts.

No, that's not quite true. I really am quite good at making homemade donuts. I ought to be; I've been on a decade long quest to get it just right. I'm a firm believer that donuts should be a once-a-year, Halloween season kind of treat. (Now watch me eat my words with maple glaze on top.) This year, I invited my parents over for homemade donuts and wild hijinks, compliments the two charges. My mother, a notoriously particular and highly proficient cook, was smitten immediately. So the very next night, she got together with a neighbor and made my donut recipe, dropping off a batch of fresh hot donut holes at our house. And two nights later, my brother and his five charges and wife were passing through town and my mother convinced me to make them yet again! Oh, sweet deep-fried mama! So even though in word I recommend making them once a year around Halloween, please don't blame me if you end up making them three times in the next four days. Perhaps you will discover a hidden talent for donut making yourself. It's easier than sewing new clothes, ahem, which I might have to do if I don't stop making donuts soon.
Money Saving Tips: Homemade donuts are pretty inexpensive, especially if you only use an inch of oil, like I do. You can save the oil, strain it and reuse it for frying later-if you can stand to live so dangerously. Leftover mashed potatoes are handy here too. Donuts do not keep well, so drop off to the neighbors whatever you won't be eating.
Maple Glazed Buttermilk Donuts, adapted from my friend Kristen:
Estimated Cost: $4.00 for 1 dozen donuts and loads of donut holes
Notes: Follow the directions carefully for best results. Be extra careful not to add too much flour. Sticky dough makes for velvety donuts. This is one case that I use instant mashed potatoes for their smoothness and convenience. Maple extract makes the glaze extra special.
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup mashed potatoes (I use 1 cup boiling water and 1/2 cup instant mashed potato flakes or buds)
4 and 1/2 cups flour, DIVIDED
2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
pinch of nutmeg (two quick shakes)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat eggs until frothy. Add sugar and beat well. Add buttermilk butter, vanilla. Stir in mashed potaotes. Sprinkle exactly 3 and 1/2 cups flour, plus powder, soda, salt and nutmeg over the dough. Stir until just blended. The dough will be extremely sticky. Line a dinner plate with waxed paper. Sprinkle 1/2 cup flour on top of abouwaxed paper. Gather sticky dough up and press onto waxed paper; sprinkle the top with remaining 1/2 cup flour. If you need to patt atop a little more flour to be able to work with the dough, go ahead and sprinkle/pat it on top but DO NOT mix it in. ( You can refrigerate dough for a couple of hours at this point if you want, but not for too long or the dough will turn black from the potatoes.) Let the dough rest on the plate for five minutes. Meanwile, heat large heavy pot with 1 inch of oil until oil is about 375 degrees. Turn donuts out onto flat floured surface. Pat the dough into a square only slightly larger than the plate. The dough should be about 1/2 inch thick. (Do not knead in the flour that have you sprinkled on the donuts. It will cook away on the outside, promise.) Cut donuts with donut cutter, or use the top of a prescription pill bottle for donut holes. Holes are the best in my opinion. Fry donuts until pale golden brown, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Cool for five minutes before glazing.
Maple Glaze
Notes: This makes enough for half a batch of donuts, in case you want to make some powdered sugar donuts or plain sugar.
Combine 2 cups powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons maple extract and about 4 tablespoons cream (or milk) until smooth.
Coming Tomorrow:
More Edible Evil
Halloween Chocolate Cupcakes

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Leftover Remodel: Sweet and Spicy Chicken Quesadillas

Yep. If you're thinking that this looks nothing like the buttermilk donuts with maple glaze that I promised, you're right. But Friday's southwest chicken (scroll down for recipe) was so superlative in a simple quesadilla, I'm compelled to stop and share. If you need another reason to make this four-ingredient slow-cooker chicken recipe, then here it is: LEFTOVERS. With a sprinkle of green onions, a smattering of cheese, and a butter brushed flour tortilla, you'll be on your way too oohing and aahing a second time. By using your leftovers, you'll be able to make a stand-out quickie meal in minutes for about 50 cents per quesadilla. I'll be back tomorrow with the promised donuts, scouts honor.
*****And for those of you wondering about Friday's tortillas, they are simply purchased corn tortillas, lightly fried in a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil. (I use about 2 tablespoons of oil for approximately 8-10 tortillas.)
Coming Tomorrow:
Buttermilk Donuts with Maple Glaze. Truly.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Slow Cooker Sweet and Spicy Chicken

My sewing machine is on overdrive. Halloween costumes, it seems, should be finished two weeks before Halloween. Why can I never remember this? We've become so adept at celebrating that each holiday spills out of it's little calendar box into an entire month of festivities. Ain't life grand?
So, even though Halloween is next Friday night, the two charges have a Halloween party tonight, a carnival tomorrow, a wear-your-costume ballet lesson and vocal class mid week and best of all: my two little costumed charges are playing their violins with the Southwest Symphony for a Halloween concert on Thursday night. I can't wait to see Belle and Obi Wan Kenobi up there, fiddling their little Halloween hearts out. So, here I sit at the computer, in pajamas, but covered with bits of yellow thread and brown fabric scraps. But I'm almost done. And it's good to know they'll be getting good use out of these Halloween costumes. All week long.
Our favorite weekend dinner, hands down, is tacos. This four ingredient slow cooker recipe is a huge time saver. I don't even bother to defrost the chicken before plunking it in, smothered in itty bitty tomatoes, brown sugar, and crushed red pepper. That's it. If we have tacos on Friday night, you can bet we'll have chicken quesadillas on Sunday. Have a great weekend everybody.
Money Saving Tips: Chicken is one of those items that can cost you a lot or a little, depending on the sales of the week. When it goes on sale for less than $2/lb, stock up. If you can't find petite diced tomatoes, chop canned diced tomatoes into small pieces. Tabasco to taste could stand in for the pepper flakes.
Slow Cooker Sweet and Spicy Chicken for Tacos
Estimated Cost: $3.00
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 (14 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Coat inside of crock pot with no stick cooking spray. Place all ingredients in crock pot. Cook on high for 4-6 hours or on low for 8-10 hours, or until chicken shreds very easily with a fork. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Chicken will absorb liquid after it is shredded.) Serve in tacos.
Next Up:
Velvety Buttermilk Donuts with Maple Glaze

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Roasted Green Chile, Butternut Squash and Corn Pot Pie

****Forgive me fellow bloggers. There seems to be some sort of commenting glitch today. I'm brimming with mute praise for all of your fabulous creations; if only I could post you a comment!
It's Barefoot Thursdays, so kick off your shoes, tie on an apron and sprint to the kitchen. We're cooking some of Ina Garten's recipes at home, so join and eat like a contessa on the cheap.At our farmer's market this week, a bus full of tourists stopped across the street and filed out of a bright red tourbus. We were just a few feet away when I saw them cross the street, hourdes of them, like clowns emptying out of a VWbug at a circus. Since the market is only about 1/4 mile from my home, my two little charges and I will often walk there midday to buy a juicy apple, or a perfect peach, or a comely vegetable for dinner. It makes a lovely little homeschool recess sojourn. But, darn it, this was too much company, and I have an issue (i.e. impatience) with long lines. Had we arrived just a few minutes sooner we would have had the market to ourselves, and now it was swarming with peach pinchers, oohing and ahhing whilst stealing the only ripe avocadoes. (Well, not exactly stealing, since they paid, but by golly, I had my name on one of those avocadoes.) So instead of marching straight to the cash register with my market bounty, I was stuck waiting in a long line of single item purchases when we should have been back home studying James Watt and the Industrial Revolution. But there, in the back of the snake-line, pressed up against the refrigator, I spotted them: a black and blistered bag of freshly roasted green chiles. And I knew then that whatever was playing for dinner, that these smoky green chiles would get a leading role. So instead of making Ina's exact recipe for pot pie, I chopped some green chiles, kept the squash, but added some corn, southwest spices and mexican style tomatoes, and topped it off with a cornmeal and cheddar coated crust and a fresh pico de gallo. It was so delicious, smoky, sweet and just the right amount of spicy (thanks to those green chilies) that I'm almost sort of glad that I had to wait in that long line. Sort of. Almost. I'm reprinting my southwest version of the recipe below. Dear Ina, bless her heart, had 34 tablespoons of fat in her four serving recipe. So you can bet your blistered green chile that I had to make some changes. Ay, mamacita!

Money Saving Tips: Use your microwave to cook your squash to save time and money. Roast your own green chiles (if you can't find them at your farmer's market), chop them and freeze them in zip top baggies. If you're short on time, you can use the canned, but always buy the biggest one available and freeze any extras. Use vegetables that are in season for maximum flavor and lowest cost. Always make at least two pie crusts at a time, one to use now and one to freeze.

Roasted Green Chile, Butternut Squash and Corn Pot Pie
adapted from Ina Garten
Estimated Cost: $7.00
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon each chili powder and cumin
1 and 1/2 cups corn, fresh, frozen, or drained from a can
1 cup chopped roasted green chiles, or 1 (7 ounce) can, drained
1 14.5 ounce can Mexican style diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 of a large butternut squash, cooked, peeled and cut into /2 inch chunks
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/2 cup half and half of whole milk
prepared pie crust, homemade or purchased (I made mine with half whole wheat)
1 heaping teaspoon cornmeal
1/2 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add onion and garlic and saute until softened, about five minutes. Stir in chili powder and cumin and cook for one minute. Add corn and tomatoes, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Stir in the butternut squash and cilantro. Pour in half and half or milk to get a creamy and loose texture. Pour into greased pie dish. Top with pie crust. Sprinkle pie crust with cornmeal and cheddar cheese. Bake pie for thirty minutes, or until filling is bubbly and crust is brown. Serve with pico de gallo and sour cream if desired.
Pico de Gallo: Chop 3 parts tomatoes, 1 part each onion and cilantro, and some minced hot pepper. Stir in lime juice and salt to taste.
Coming Tomorrow:
Slow Cooker Spicy Brown Sugar Chicken for Tacos

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Whole Grain Penne with Sweet Red Pepper, Ginger and Feta

I've been seduced, I admit. I fall helpless. It's all those luscious pasta recipes out there in blogland. They've been luring me in, and taking me captive, prey to my own noodle cravings. First, it was the Proud Italian Cook's butternut squash lasagna (scroll down for that one), and now it's the brilliantly creative Culinarty's weeknight pasta dish. In twenty minutes, sweet red peppers are simmered with fragrant ginger and garlic, then smothered with tomatoes and a drizzle of cream and feta over whole grain penne. It's an unusual combination of common and available ingredients. I love dinners like this! For one thing, I had everything I needed on hand and only about twenty minutes to get food on the table. For another thing, this dish is healthful, but still feels naughty with that little drizzle of cream and sprinkle of feta. And finally, it's downright scrumptious, familiar and exotic in the same bite. So go ahead and allow yourself to be seduced by this passionate pasta. One bite and you won't regret it.
Money Saving Tips: The whole grain pastas are generally more expensive than their white flour counterparts. My favorite brand is Barilla. When you find the whole grain pastas on sale, stock up for greater nutrition. Still, a simple pasta dinner is still one of the most affordable ways to feed a family. You can easily add in some meat for additional protein also.
Whole Grain Pasta with Sweet Red Pepper, Ginger and Feta
Slightly adapted from Lore at Culinarty
Estimated Cost for four servings: $6.00
Notes: I also added a plain chicken breast for the Quiet Man, browned in the olive oil, then removed and added back into the simmering sauce.
8 ounces box durum wheat penne pasta
4 green onions (greens only)
1 14.5 ounce can Italian style diced tomatoes, blended smooth in blender
1 large red bell pepper
1 small handful of fresh parsley (save some for garnish)
4 Tbsp cream of half and half
2-4 Tbsp Feta – crumbled
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp finely chopped ginger
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt – to taste
Freshly ground pepper mix (red, white, green and black) – to taste
Heat the olive oil in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Remove the top, seeds, and membranes of the pimento pepper and slice into thin strips. Toss them into the saucepan and let them soften on low-medium heat for about 10-15 minutes (if your strips soften quicker, there’s no need for you to wait 10-15 minutes), stirring every now and then.
In the meantime you can peel the ginger with a spoon, then finely chop the peeled ginger.
Begin cooking the pasta according to package directions.
Add the chopped ginger and garlic to the saucepan and give it another stir. Sauté for 2-3 minutes then toss in the crushed tomatoes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper mix and stir again.
Chop up the green parts of 2 green onions and add them to the sauce. Simmer on low heat, partially covered, for 5 minutes. You might need to add 2-3 Tbsp of water during these 5 minutes (to keep a sauce-like consistency), depending on how watery your crushed tomatoes are. I didn’t need to so it all comes down to what brand you’re using.
Chop up the fresh parsley leaves and add them to the sauce. Let the sauce cook, partially covered, for another 2-3 minutes, then remove it from the flame and set aside.
Plate the cooked pasta, add some sauce on top then spoon 1 Tbsp of cream (per plate) on top of that. Crumble ½ Tbsp of Feta on each plate, garnish with fresh parsley and serve.
Coming Tomorrow:
Barefoot Thursdays:
Butternut Squash, Corn and Roasted Green Chile Pot Pie with Pico De Gallo

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Whole Wheat Pumpkin Maple Muffins

Time's a wasting! Join Tuesdays with Dorie baking club before October 31st, or you'll miss your sugary chance. Each week, we make fabulous treats on the cheap. Hurry on over!

Fall is my favorite time for a Saturday Adventure. I capitalize this term on purpose because it's such a grand idea that it deserves to be a proper noun. When we moved to our little southwest town from upstate New York, our notion of the Fall Saturday Adventure had to adjust a little. For one thing, a pumpkin patch-a real true pumpkin patch- was not easily found. After some inquiry, a local yokel informed us that the nearest thing to a pumpkin patch was 40 miles away in an even smaller town. A pumpkin growing farmer puts the gourds out on his front lawn with a lockbox on a card table. On the honor system, you pick out your pumpkin and cram some crumpled ones into the too-small slot. This sophisticated market system simply isn't used in Los Angeles, where I grew up. It sounded like the perfect Saturday Adventure to me; even if we didn't get a pumpkin it was worth it to see virtuous people handling a loaded cashbox. And so it has been for the last four years in a row. Each October we've headed off to someone else's front lawn in somebody else's hometown to buy somebody else's home-grown pumpkin on the marvelous honor system. This year, I woke up early and slipped a batch of freshly baked whole wheat pumpkin muffins whole wheat, perfumed with maple and studded with sunflower seeds, into a basket to take along. If there is any way to make an October Saturday Adventure even more ideal, it's with these fall flavored muffins. And this year, as the icing on the cake, during our drive home the sky sifted down gentle drifts of powdered sugar snow. It melted just hours later, but it was a good reminder that the holidays are coming soon, and muffins like these are not only good for Saturday Adventures but also for Holiday Breakfasts. Another capital notion!
Money Saving Tips: Maple extract is a HUGE money saver. You can make pancake syrup by boiling together sugar and water and flavoring it with maple extract. It's not as good as maple syrup, but for a child's frozen waffle, it does the trick. Also, maple extract makes a great frosting since the flavor is stronger than real maple syrup. Be sure to freeze any leftover pumpkins in 1/2 cup portions in zip top baggies. Sunflower seeds can be pricey, so use whatever nuts you've got available.
Whole Wheat Pumpkin Maple Muffins
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan
Estimated Cost: $2.00 for six muffins
Notes: These are even better with a little maple butter. Stir together equal parts butter and maple syrup.
1 cup whole wheat flour, lightly spooned into measuring cup
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
4 tablespoons softened butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon maple extract
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons buttermilk or milk
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, plus more for top (or other nut)
Grease a six cup muffin tin. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, combine flour, powder, soda, cinnamon and ginger. In a separate medium bowl, cream butter and both sugars. Add the egg and beat well. Stir in vanilla and maple extracts. Mix in pumpkin and buttermilk. Very gently, fold in dry ingredients. Stir in seeds. Divide batter between muffin cups. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool in muffin tins for five minutes. Remove from muffin tins and serve warm
Coming Tomorrow:
Sweet Red Pepper and Ginger Penne with Feta