26 October, 2006

Thinking Outside the Pumpkin Pie

As you know, some times my so-called brilliant ideas just hit me whenever. In the middle of the night, while I’m driving the mini’s around, while I’m watching my soaps or even just surfing around online. And I won’t say this is a *brilliant* idea, but more of an “AH-HA!” moment. I mean, does it seem strange to anyone else that here I proclaim myself as a Martha Stewart wanna-be, but yet have failed to put out one single recipe on this blog thus far? Shameful. Just shameful. *Hanging my head down, nodding back and forth*

So lately I’ve really gotten into the Food Network. While I’ve never been a big Food Network TV watcher as I tend to find a lot of it boring, the show that kick started my recent addiction (as if I really need any more TV shows to be hooked on right now, right?) is Ace of Cakes. If you haven’t seen it, then what can I say other than WOW (in all cap’s no less)? It is like Pimp My Ride for cakes. SERIOUSLY. This guy is not your ordinary cake baker. Betty Crocker he is NOT, that’s for sure. He is a tough looking, goatee & earring wearing highly decorated (and paid) cake baker that literally shoots fireworks out the cakes at times. This is pop art for cake baking at its best. So if you’re going to attempt to emerce yourself in Food TV, then by all means you must start out with this show. You will NOT be disappointed I Promise. So then I got hooked on Sandra Lee and Semi-Homemade. Now THIS is a show after my own heart. With two mini monograms chasing around at my feet during the “witching hour” (read: after naptime, before dinner), I just do not have hours to stand there and whip up an elaborate dinner for Mr. Monogram and myself. And I can forget the mini monograms as unless it’s a chicken finger shaped like a dinosaur they’re not likely to eat it, so that means I prepare multiple meals at dinner time to accommodate everyone. So anyway, back to Sandra, who is a witty one for sure, who shows you how to make great meals using all sorts of short-cuts and boxed ingredients, while usually a *tad* bit under the influence. I mean, I’m not saying she’s a lush per say (okay, so really, I am), but she will give you a good show, that’s for sure and she is certifiably crazy most days, so I find her quite entertaining.

Of course you all know I love Martha so that goes without saying. But let’s chat about Rachel Ray for a moment. I love her recipes and I often hop online to print up a few of her recipes because let’s face it, 30 minutes is about all I have to make a meal these days. But I do find that if I’m watching her I have to watch her on mute because I can’t stand the little words she uses like “yumm-o” or “EVOO.” Just say it already. It took me 3 months to figure out that EVOO was extra virgin olive oil and not some random spice I couldn’t locate at any of my surrounding grocery stores (FYI, if you ask the customer service people at Kroger, they also do not know what EVOO is. Just take my word on that one). So after I’ve watched Rachel on mute, I do love me some Paula Dean. Well don’t be so surprised! She is, after all, "the Queen of Southern cuisine." Her new show Party with Paula on Sat nights (Yes, Saturday nights. No, I have no life) is fantastic! I’ve really enjoyed it and I just want to jump through the tv screen and hug her. But let’s get moving on some recipes now!

This time of year especially, when there is a chill in the air and breeze in the changing trees, and pumpkins on every corner (seriously, the pumpkin stands are battling here like gas stations, fighting for every penny they can get), there are good soups to be made, pumpkin pies to be baked and drinks to be downed. And while I’m on the subject of pumpkins, I’m sure there are a few of you out there whose limited pumpkin recipes could use a little spicing up. Relax. Don’t start hyperventilating on me and rolling your eyes anticipating the same ‘ol pumpkin pie recipe that everyone seems to float around this time of year. You will no, I repeat, NOT find me posting my mothers pumpkin pie recipe on this blog. I mean, just a quick glance through my own recipe book tells me that my recipes are looking quite tired and in need of some new ones to join them. Monogram Momma to the rescue! So in my magazine flipping and internet clicking (ha!), I’ve come across some great new pumpkin inspired recipes for you all to try out this week. And don’t tell me you don’t have any fresh pumpkin laying around because you should all be well on your way into your pumpkin gutting and carving for the Show Me Yours competition!

I am letting it be known from this point forward, that I love Mexican food. I love it so much, in fact, that we eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant every friday night. So anytime I can find an easy to assemble and tasty mexican dish, monogram momma is all over it. It also increases my chances of the mini's actually eating the meal I've made, so that in itself is a nice little bonus, no?

This dish can be assembled up to eight hours ahead of time; refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, until ready to bake (add a few minutes to the cooking time).

1/2 leftover thyme-roasted chicken, skin removed, meat shredded

6 scallions, thinly sliced

Coarse salt and ground pepper

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin purée

4 garlic cloves, peeled

1 jalapeño chile, quartered (remove ribs and seeds for less heat, if desired)

1 teaspoon chili powder

8 (6-inch) corn tortillas

1 1/2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese (6 ounces)

1. Preheat oven to 425°. In a medium bowl, combine chicken and scallions. Season generously with salt and pepper; set aside.

2. In a blender, purée pumpkin, garlic, jalapeño, chili powder, 2 1/2 cups water, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until smooth (hold top firmly as blender will be quite full). Pour 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of an 8-inch square (or other shallow 2-quart) baking dish.

3. Lay tortillas on work surface; mound chicken mixture on half of each tortilla, dividing evenly. Roll up tortillas; place, seam side down, in baking dish.

4. Pour remaining sauce on top; sprinkle with cheese. Place dish on a baking sheet; bake until cheese is golden and sauce is bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

I know I don't really like chocolate. Please don't email me to remind me as I am constantly reminded this time of year by all the chocolate candy being thrown in my face everywhere I go. However, I think it is a safe assumption to make that I would probably eat anything that was combined with cheesecake. It's the only desert I just can't possibly live my life without, so for the sake of cheesecake, and cheesecake only, I will sacrifice and give these bars a try.*sigh* Somehow, I will find a way to plow through this sacrifice. Let it never be said that I am a selfish person.

Makes 16; Prep time: 25 minutes; Total time: 5 hours
To create swirls, drag the blade of a paring knife through the chocolate and pumpkin mixtures several times to make a marbled pattern.

20 chocolate wafer cookies (half a 9-ounce package)

2 tablespoons sugar

2 packages (8 ounces each) bar cream cheese

1 cup sugar

1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin purée

3 large eggs

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on all sides. Set aside.

2. Transfer crumb mixture to prepared pan, and press gently into bottom. Bake until fragrant and slightly firm, 12 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

3. Place cream cheese in food processor; blend until smooth. Add sugar, pumpkin purée, eggs, flour, pumpkin-pie spice, and salt; process until combined. Set aside.

4. Place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave in 30-second increments, stirring between each, until melted. Add 1 cup pumpkin mixture; stir to combine. Set aside.

5. Pour remaining pumpkin mixture into prepared pan. Drop dollops of chocolate mixture onto pumpkin mixture; swirl. Bake until cheesecake is set but jiggles slightly when gently shaken, 40 to 50 minutes.

6. Cool in pan. Cover; chill until firm, at least 2 hours (and up to 2 days). Using overhang, transfer cake to work surface. With a knife dipped in water, cut into 16 squares. Serve.

Per serving: 273 cal; 17.2 g fat (9.9 g sat fat); 4.8 g protein; 27 g carb; 1.5 g fiber

Okay, so I know this might sound a little gross at first. But just look at the ingredients, people! Brown sugar, Locatelli cheese, nutmeg and COOKIES. You can't tell me a pasta with cookies in it is not worth trying. I simply will not let you.


One 3-pound sugar pumpkin or butternut squash

4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons light-brown sugar

1 large egg

1/4 cup Locatelli cheese

3 large or 6 small amaretti cookies, crushed

2 tablespoons ricotta cheese

1 teaspoon chopped shallots

Pinch of nutmeg

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 pounds store-bought fresh pasta sheets

1 tablespoon semolina flour

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 tablespoon freshly chopped sage leaves

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 375°. On a work surface, cut pumpkin in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds; discard. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil evenly over insides of pumpkin halves; rub 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar into each. Roast, cut-side down, until pumpkin is easily pierced with a paring knife, about 1 hour. Let cool.

2. When cool enough to handle, scoop out flesh with a spoon. You'll need 1 1/2 cups of purée. Transfer flesh to a clean kitchen towel or cheesecloth; wring excess liquid into a bowl. Place flesh in the bowl of a food processor, along with egg, Locatelli, amaretti, ricotta, shallot, and a pinch of nutmeg; process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Lay 1 pasta sheet on work surface. Place 1 tablespoon filling every 3 inches. Brush water around filling. Place another sheet on top, pressing around filling to seal. Using a fluted pastry wheel, cut each ravioli into a 3-by-3-inch square. Repeat with remaining pasta sheets and filling. Transfer ravioli to a parchment-lined baking sheet sprinkled with semolina; freeze for at least 30 minutes.

4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; season with salt. Add ravioli; cook until it just floats, 3 to 4 minutes.

5. In a large sauté pan, melt butter over high heat. Add sage; cook until butter begins to brown and sizzle, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; whisk in balsamic. Using a slotted spoon, transfer ravioli to pan, tossing to combine. Serve immediately with cheese, if desired.

This looked so good that I had to pass it along. Don't even feel like you have to go to the trouble with the little cups and wrapping either! Put them out in a candy dish and enjoy them while you too are watching the Ace of cakes blow things up!

Makes 30 pieces
These wrapped candies are perfect treats for celebrating Halloween. Pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, are available hulled or unhulled at health-food stores. Paper candy cups are available at baking supply stores.

1 cup hulled pepitas

1/4 cup sugar

2/3 cup good-quality honey

3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons melted for brushing

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pepitas; toast, stirring constantly until seeds pop and become slightly golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

2. Place sugar and honey in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar, about 3 minutes. Add pepitas, and continue cooking until temperature registers 285° on a candy thermometer, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in cold butter.

3. Let the mixture cool to 240°, about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, brush the inside of fifteen 1-inch-diameter black paper cups with melted butter, reserving 1 tablespoon. Spoon a scant tablespoon of the honey mixture into each cup. Brush a clean work surface with the remaining butter, and spoon the remaining honey mixture on it so mixture will continue to cool.

4. When remaining candy is stiff and cool enough to handle, about 6 minutes, cut into 3/4-inch pieces with a greased knife. Put one piece of candy in center of each of fifteen 4-by-4-inch pieces of orange cellophane wrap, gather cellophane at the top, and secure with a twist of a 4 1/2-inch piece of floral wire. Wrap the ends of floral wire around a skewer to form tendrils.

Pumpkin Seed Goat Cheese Pesto
Does this say Goat Cheese? Because if so then just push me down and roll me and lather me up nice and good in it because I am ALL ABOUT some goat cheese on a nice salad with walnuts and homemade balsamic vinegarette or a grilled Portobello sandwhich.

Prep Time: 30 Minutes
This recipe can be made a day or two ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Serve warm or at room temperature

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups hulled pumpkin seeds (8 ounces)

2 shallots, finely chopped (about ¼ cup)

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage (about 10 leaves)

5 ounces soft goat cheese

1/2 cup water

Juice of 2 lemons (5 to 6 tablespoons)

1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pumpkin seeds and cook, stirring, until they begin to turn brown (some will pop), about 5 minutes. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a plate to cool for 10 minutes.
2. Add the pumpkin seed mixture to a food processor along with the parsley, sage, goat cheese and water. Turn the processor on and drizzle in the remaining 6 tablespoons of olive oil, until the mixture reaches an oatmeallike consistency. Transfer to a bowl and add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

You didn’t actually think I would forget a little something to wet your whistle, did you? If I've learned anything at all from my friend Sandra Lee, it's that a cocktail (or 4 in her case) sure makes cooking a lot more fun. Just passing my lessons onto you, that's all....

1 graham cracker, crushed into fine crumbs

Ice cubes

1 1/2 ounces rum (3 tablespoons)

3 tablespoons pumpkin pie filling

1/2 ounce Sortilège Maple liqueur (1 tablespoon)

1/2 ounce half-and-half (1 tablespoon)

Place the graham cracker crumbs on a small plate. Wet the rim of a chilled martini glass and dip into the crumbs to coat. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the rum, pumpkin pie filling, maple liqueur and half-and-half. Shake, then strain into the martini glass.

Pumpkin Pancakes

You would think Martha would have a picture of these yummy flapjacks, but it was not to be found. Trust me, the picture has my mouth watering and the Monogram family will be enjoying these delights on Saturday morning!

Martha says:
For a spiced breakfast treat, whisk 1 ¼ cups all purpose flour; 2 tbsp sugar; 2 tsp baking powder; ½ tsp each cinnamon, ground ginger, and salt; 1/8 tsp nutmeg and a pinch of ground cloves. In a separate bowl, stir together 1 cup milk, 6 tbsp canned pumpkin puree, 2 tbsp melted butter, and 1 egg; fold mixture into dry ingredients. Melt some butter in a skillet over medium heat; pour in ¼ cup batter for each pancake. Cook pancakes about 3 minutes per side; serve with butter and syrup. Makes 8-10.

So as I’m typing up all these yummy recipes, starving because I haven’t yet eaten (although trust me, there is no fear of actual starvation here), I decided I needed a little moral or motto of the day to inspire you and send you on your way. So today’s motto, while you are emptying and cleaning out and cutting up your pumpkins, and at the risk of near plagiarism to one of our fine American institutions, Go forth and “Think Outide the Pumpkin Pie." Now all I need is a little spanish speaking chiquaha narrating this post!


Sarah said...

Everything sounds sooooooooo yummy!!

Anonymous said...

I wish I liked pumpkin
anything :-(

Lisagh said...

I just have to try the Pumpkintini! Last year, we had this very idea but couldn't find a recipe and just ended up trying to infuse some vodka with pumpkin wrapped up in cheese cloth. It was DISGUSTING!!! (and undrinkable - what a waste of good vodka) - Your recipe looks amazing! thank you.

Patti said...

These all look sooo yummy!

I'm definitely trying the pumpkintini. Last year I tried a different recipe. It was just vodka and pumpin spice creamer. :( Yuck! It was so thick it was undrinkable!

I also definitely want to try the pumpkin ravioli. Yum yum!