Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pumpkin Detour: Zucchini "Chili"

I have lots of new recipes to share! This little gem is something I made a couple of months ago when you could most clearly see the transition in the seasons at the farmer's market. The last berries of the year were sitting next to basketfuls of delicata squash and dark greens, while mounds of zucchini and chili peppers were  fighting to grab your attention away from heirloom peaches and apples. You can see this in the star ingredients:

  • summer squash
  • fresh chili peppers
  • kale
  • delicata squash
Delicata squash may not be available everywhere or for an exorbitant price. If you would like to make a substitute, I suggest butternut squash or yams. Both have a stronger flavor than delicata but it's similar to the delicata.

Creating a yummy meal around my last summer squash that used some of the other veggies in my pantry was my inspiration. I had a huge round zucchini that only cost $0.33 because it was the end of the summer season! By this time, I was pretty tired of all my tried and true zucchini recipes so I did a little searching.

I found Rachael Ray's recipe here. I started with Rachael's recipe and adapted it to what I had on hand. This is a keeper! The spices and chile peppers were a nice combination but didn't overpower the vegetables. I only used 3 chilies but feel free to add more. I was surprised at home much I liked the zucchini in big chunks. The larger pieces of zucchini kept some crispness and made the meal feel more hearty.

I did one step differently. I roasted my two squashes and the peppers. The zucchini I kept an eye on and removed from the oven right when it was just becoming tender. I just heated these vegetables through at the end in the pot. While this step isn't necessary, the roasted flavor really made the meal better. I don't think any of the red pepper made it into the pot because it was so good on its on. Enjoy!

Zucchini "Chili"

by Ace Nation
Keywords: vegan beans/lentils vegetables

Ingredients (serves 2)
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups zucchini, chopped into large pieces
  • 1/2 delicata squash, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 pablano chili
  • 1 Anaheim chili
  • 1 red chili
  • 2-3 cups kale, chopped
  • 1 14 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Garnish: Lime wedges or cilantro
Note: Roasting the squash and the peppers is not required but does taste delicious. If you decide not to roast the vegetables, add the squash and peppers while the onions cook, and cook until tender.
To roast the squash and peppers: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat the squash and peppers with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes. Stir the vegetables about halfway through.
In a large high-sided skillet, heat olive oil over medium-low to medium heat. Add onion, stirring occasionally, cook until soft, a little color is nice, 8-10 minutes.
Add garlic and kale, stirring occasionally, cook until tender, 5-7 minutes.
Add tomato paste and cumin. Cook about 1 minute.
Add vegetable stock, Italian seasoning, coriander, smoked paprika, roasted vegetables, and black beans.
Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer 10-15 minutes, until the squash is heated through and the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly. Season to taste with kosher salt.
Serve over rice with lime wedges and/or fresh cilantro.
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Monday, November 19, 2012

Here's What I Call a Hillbilly Recipe: Pumpkin Pudding

Normally, I pride myself on making great meals from scratch and going the extra mile to make ingredients myself. I do have a couple of exceptions. I think I have made homemade pudding one time in my life and that was years ago. Why would I need to? I have an undying love for Jell-O vanilla instant pudding...and I always have at least one box in my cupboard at all times.

I have no idea where I had the inspiration of combining pumpkin puree and instant pudding. Maybe I was thinking about The Pioneer Woman's creamy, luscious Pumpkin Smoothie and wishing it was creamier and not so cold?

Wherever the inspiration came from, this pudding is tasty! I went ahead and added a little extra vanilla and a few spices. I have made a couple of deserts using yams and acorn squash. I am guessing that they would also work well in place of the pumpkin. I did just buy 8 pounds of yams. Maybe yam pudding is in my future...

P.S. Towards the end of the batch, I tried adding a little extra pumpkin puree to the pumpkin-flavored pudding. Please avoid my mistake. Instead of making the pudding taste even more like pumpkin, it became rather vegetal. 1 cup of puree was perfect.

Pumpkin Pudding

by Ace Nation
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Keywords: winter squash pudding

Ingredients (serves 6)
  • 1 box (5.1 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
In a mixing bowl, with a whisk or a hand mixer, blend pudding mix and milk about 3 minutes. Gently stir in pumpkin puree, vanilla extract, and spice. Refrigerate until set, at least 5 minutes, then serve. Enjoy!
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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pumpkin Barley-Risotto Style

When searching for winter squash recipes, you will definitely come across ravioli and risotto. After successfully mastering pumpkin ravioli, I decided to give risotto a shot.

Butternut squash is most commonly used but I had a gorgeous squash from the farmer's market. It's called a sunset squash. The name does more justice to the beautiful color than my pictures. If you have ever seen a tree with red leaves in the fall that were so vibrant and red that they almost glowed they were so vibrant, that's what the skin of this squash looked like.

P.S. It was difficult to cut the squash like this. Looks pretty but I would only suggest you do slices if you are comfortable in the kitchen with a knife.

Feel free to use risotto rice. The only change to the directions would be the cooking time. Rice would only need about half the time. I have made barley risotto-style before and loved it. I really enjoy the flavor of barley but don't cook it that often because it takes so long. I should get more in the habit. Barley is cheap: around $0.70 per pound in these parts. Barley works great for risotto because it becomes tender but still has a nice bite. Just a few tidbits of hopefully useful knowledge:

  • Barley takes a long time to cook. Everything was simmering away even with the stove set right between off and medium so I left it there. Once the barley hit the pan, it needed about 65 minutes to cook.
  • I added water/stock about every ten minutes.
  • I only stirred the pot every five minutes. You do not have to stand over the stove the whole time. Just please don't forgot about your glorious pot of food while it's cooking!

I had two secret ingredients. Many recipes I found only added chunks of squash. I wanted the flavor of the squash to be the star so in addition to the pieces of squash, I added a cup of squash puree. Not only did the make the flavor of the pumpkin the star, the puree added a nice creaminess.

My second secret ingredient was a granny smith apple. The tartness of the apple provided tasty balance to the sweet and savory pumpkin. I made sure to add the apple towards the end to make sure it still had a little bit of crispness. Below are a few shots of the barley in the process of cooking, a few extra tips I learned along the way, and the recipe. Enjoy!
This is to show where I kept the stove temperature the entire time: right in the middle between off and medium. The onions took ages to cook and 65 minutes passed between adding the barley to the pot and being on my plate but it was well worth it. Feel free to try cooking the barley at a slightly higher temperature. I have no idea what will happen.
The barley smelled delicious while toasting in the pan, much like my current favorite ale. I was inspired!

Here's what the pot looked like after the first addition of  water/stock. Don't be afraid of the color!

Pumpkin Barley-Risotto Style

by Ace Nation
Cook Time: about 60 minutes
Keywords: entree vegan winter squash barley

Ingredients (serves 3)
  • 5-7 cups water, stock, or a combination
  • 1 cup hulled barley
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow or white onion, diced finely
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups roasted winter squash or pumpkin, diced into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup roasted winter squash puree
  • 1/2 14 ounce can of white beans (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced
Place the water or stock in a small sauce pan, bring to a simmer, and keep warm.
In another larger sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium-low to medium heat. Add onion, stirring occasionally, cook until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
Add garlic, stirring occasionally, cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add barley and cook until aromatic, about 3-4 minutes.
Stir in 1 1/2 cups of water/stock at a time and the squash puree, stirring about every 5 minutes until the liquid is mostly absorbed.
Then, add 1/2 water/stock at a time, stirring occasionally.
After about 50 minutes of adding 1/2 liquid, add the diced squash, white beans, and apple to the pan and additional water/stock as needed. At this time, I begin to add 1/4 cup water/stock at a time. Stir very gently.
Continue the process of adding water/stock and stirring until the barley is fully cooked. The grains will be tender but still slightly chewy.
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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Surprises at the Farmer's Market and Other New Ingredients

I went to the Corvallis Farmer's Market Saturday on the hunt for winter squash and a pumpkin donut from Gathering Together Farm. I was at the market so early last weekend that the pastries weren't set out yet. What a travesty!

When you purchase a potato donut, whoever is selling them usually hands them to you on a napkin because most of us devour them immediately. I have to ask for my donut in a bag because lately, I have been taking my donuts home and enjoying them with a cup of coffee on the couch. They never believe that the donut makes it home! Here is proof:

I bought a bag 3 pound bag of organic persimmons for $3. Sometimes you can find much better deals at the farmer's market. I just saw persimmons in the super market for conventional persimmons at $1.99/pound. I have no clue what to do with a persimmon as I've never actually eaten a persimmon. I have a friend who loves persimmons so I thought I would give them a try.

Left: buttercup squash Right: baby bear pumpkin

There were pumpkins left! I used all of my pumpkin and was sorely disappointed when I went to the super market the day after Halloween to find absolutely no pumpkins. I found these two little gals at the market on Saturday. The buttercup squash is a really pretty pastel gray-blue and weighs about 3.5-4 pounds. The pumpkin is an adorable little 1-1.5 pounder.

I love root vegetables this time of year and can occasionally find them on sale for a great price. This week the Market of Choice has yams or sweet potatoes 3 pounds for a $1. That whole plate only cost $1.03. You'll be seeing plenty of yam recipes in the near future!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pasta with Pumpkin

As wonderful as pumpkin can be, I was not impressed with my Pasta with Pumpkin. Let me translate: I experimented and my meal was good enough to eat for dinner and the leftovers were my lunch the next day but that's the extent of it.

Here's what I used (and for directions look at my Pasta with Kale and Chickpeas recipe because I used basically the same process):
  • olive oil
  • onion
  • garlic
  • carrots
  • zucchini
  • kale
  • white beans
  • roasted pumpkin
  • tomato paste
  • harisa
  • dry white wine
  • toasted walnuts
The first problem was the texture. The pumpkin, white beans, and pasta all had a similar texture. Roasted squash may just not belong with pasta.

Normally, a splash of white wine like sauvignon blanc brings a pasta dish with sauteed vegetables together and makes a simple dish, taste luxurious. In this case, the bright, grassy wine clashed with the earthy, sweet pumpkin . Some sort of stock or broth would have been a better alternative.

I had some tomato paste left over from the night before. I had an idea that some bright, acidic tomatoes would be great with the pumpkin. Well, tomato paste does not have the same flavor or brightness of canned tomatoes. The tomato paste didn't add anything. I didn't even care for the flavor of the tomato paste with the other vegetables; it was just weird.

The real winner was the toasted walnuts on top of the pasta! If you've read my recent recipes, you'll see that out of the blue I am using walnuts frequently. Nuts are EXPENSIVE and I hardly every buy them, let alone cook with them. I was looking for some walnuts for my ravioli recipe and found a large bag of walnuts that were on clearance and half-price. There you go.

What should I have done differently? Any suggestions???

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pumpkin Ravioli

I am very proud of this meal! I had several firsts making this dinner. It was my first time:
  • making ravioli
  • trying winter squash ravioli
  • and eating ravioli that did not come from a can or a freezer-bag.
What can I say? I've led a very sheltered life.
As far as non-desert pumpkin recipes, ravioli seems to be rather popular so I decided I should give it a try. I wanted to keep my version on the cheap side so there were a few alterations I needed to make. The first challenge I had to figure out was what to do about the pasta. I haven't seen fresh pasta sheets in the local markets so that wasn't a possibility. I love making meals from scratch but I'm not ready to tackle homemade pasta. I settled on wonton wrappers because:
  • they're cheap, just $1.89 for a package
  • and I can use them in other recipes.

The ravioli are very delicate and can easily go from ravioli to pumpkin puree with noodle sheets. Trust me. I learned a few things cooking two batches of ravioli that just might help you:

  • Don't overcrowd the pot because they will stick together.
  • When you place the ravioli in the pot, swirl the water a few moments. This will help the ravioli from sticking to each other...and the bottom of the pot. 
  • Be very gentle when taking the ravioli from the cooking water. I used a large slotted spin to remove the ravioli one by one from the pot.
  • Drizzle the ravioli with a little olive oil after cooking so they don't stick together.

Well, if you would like pumpkin-flavored cream cheese soup, try adding cream cheese. Don't fret my friends! I found another use for that pumpkin-cream cheese concoction (you'll have to check back soon to find out)! So, when the cream cheese did not work, I decided the easiest route was to abandon cheese all together because the pumpkin becomes very creamy, anyway, when slow roasted. I just seasoned the pumpkin puree with salt and red pepper flakes. This was simply perfect!

The last challenge was to take care of the sauce. Sage and butter is a traditional topping for winter squash ravioli but I wanted something more substantial. I was already planning on using shallot (totally worth the extra cost in this case) and garlic. I figured out that if I used them in the sauce, I would have less work to do with the filling. I knew the earthy bitterness of the kale would compliment the sweet and creamy pumpkin.

I have to say, this is the best kale I have ever made! Normally, I just use a little olive oil and go from there. This time, I added some butter to the olive oil. Hello! I love my kale but this particular meal had extremely tender and flavorful kale. I am making this kale again. Enjoy!

Winter Squash Ravioli with Kale

by Ace Nation
Keywords: vegetarian winter squash wonton wrapper

    For the Ravioli
    • Wonton wrappers
    • About 1 cup roasted pumpkin puree
    • Kosher salt
    • Red pepper flakes or ground black pepper, to taste
    For the Kale
    • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    • 1 large shallot, cut into half-moon slices
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 cups kale (per person), chopped
    • 1/4 cup walnuts (per person), toasted and chopped
    For the Ravioli
    Season the pumpkin puree with kosher salt and red pepper flakes (or black pepper) to taste.
    Place about 1 1/2 teaspoons of seasoned puree in middle of a wonton wrapper.
    Dip a finger in water and run around the edges of one half.
    Fold one corner over so that it lines up with the opposite corner.
    Press the edges together firmly with your fingers to seal. Set aside finished ravioli and continue the process until you have the desired amount of ravioli.
    To cook Ravioli
    Bring a pot of water to a gentle boil. Place ravioli in water being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook about 3 minutes (time may change depending on the brand of wrappers). Very carefully remove from water using a large slotted spoon. Drizzle with olive oil to prevent the ravioli from sticking to each other.
    For the Kale
    Heat olive oil and butter in a large high-sided skillet over medium-low to medium heat.
    Add the shallot to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes.
    Add garlic, stirring occasionally, cook until tender, about 3 minutes.
    Add kale to the pan and season with kosher salt. Place lid on pan and let cook until kale is tender, stirring every few minutes, about 8-10 minutes.
    To serve
    Place desired amount of ravioli on a plate (about 6-8 per person), top with sauteed kale, and garnish with toasted walnuts.
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    Sunday, November 4, 2012

    Pioneer Woman's Pumpkin Smoothie

    If you like pumpkin, MAKE THIS SMOOTHIE. Period. I will not believe you are a pumpkin fan until you try this. I normally avoid smoothies unless it's my Pineapple-Coconut Smoothie as I like to see what my food looked like and I also enjoy the act of chewing but I will make an exception for this pumpkin smoothie.

    I am moderately to highly obsessed (depending on the day) with The Pioneer Woman. She had posted her recipe for a pumpkin smoothie some time ago. Of course, I read her post but dismissed her recipe. A pumpkin smoothie? That sounded weird. Well, when I was trying to find new pumpkin/winter squash recipes, I kept seeing that scrumptious little glass.

    Since all the Pioneer Woman recipes I've made are delicious and she doesn't know this yet but she's one of my food mentors, I trusted her on this one and I had to try her pumpkin smoothie. 4 smoothies later, I am a pumpkin smoothie believer.

    I even used skim milk and nonfat plain yogurt (1.Lame I know but we're on this let's try to eat healthier kick and 2. If you can find it, Nancy's yogurt is so creamy and delectable even if it is nonfat) and this smoothie still tasted creamy and naughty.

    I am going to leave you with this profound thought: If this pumpkin smoothie was awesome with plain pumpkin puree (with just a hint of spice), I wonder it would taste like with pumpkin butter...?

    Friday, November 2, 2012

    Winter Squash Challenge: Recipe Review

    I love baking quick breads. My arsenal includes banana bread, apple sauce bread, and carrot bread. Why? They're easy to make and cheap! So, when I was planning on a winter squash challenge, I thought I would add pumpkin bread to the mix.

    I came across a recipe for Honey Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bread on Cookie and Kate. I picked this recipe for several reasons:
    • Quick breads can easily go from healthy to a desert-y indulgence. I wanted a bread I could pack in my lunch without feeling guilty and this fit the bill.
    • I really liked Kate's suggestions of spices! I wouldn't have thought of adding ginger.
    • I had just purchased my first bag of whole wheat pastry flour. Normally, I substitute flours and I was happy to try a recipe that called for whole wheat flour. 
    • One of the ingredients is millet! I have to admit, I haven't tried this bread with the millet yet. I wanted to get an idea of what this bread tasted like before becoming more adventurous. Next time, I am definitely trying it with the millet!