Friday, October 28, 2011

Sunday Supper: Pork and Pumpkin Stew


Yes, I said Pumpkin...

in a stew...

Pumpkin is not just for sweet dishes you know.  This wonderful vegetable is really good in a savory dish. 

I was given this recipe from Williams-Sonoma at last week's technique class.  I admit, I was skeptical.  I mean I love pumpkin, mixed with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.  It's sweet.  It's great in bread, cookies, ice cream, and of course pie....but a stew?

So Chef Monique made this in class, and my motto is to try everything in class.  Just try it...cause I'm a picky girl and if it doesn't sound good or look good I'll usually pass.  I've passed on a lot in my life.  But this class allows me to experiment.  I mean, we made a smoothie with pineapple and spinach in it the other day....spinach?  eek! not in my drink!  Well I tried it and it was HEAVENLY...green, but heavenly.

So I gave the pumpkin stew a try and you know what?  I fell in love!  A savory pumpkin dish gives a whole new meaning to this autumn ingredient. 

So I went home and straight away made the stew for our Sunday Supper.  It's a great hearty family meal.  MGG loved it!  I loved it!  Enough said.

So you can make this Pumpkin Stew 2 ways. 

1) Using the recipe below, you can cook this in a slow cooker, from scratch, roasting and cubing pumpkin in about 4 hours.

2) Using this nifty bottle of Williams-Sonoma's Stewsday Pumpkin Stew Starter along with your pork in a slow cooker in about 3 hours.

Guess which way I chose?

I chose the bottle.  In class we compared the ingredients from the recipe to those in the bottle and they were the same.  Pumpkin Stew Starter is an all-natural blend of roasted pumpkin, tomatoes and carrots, gently seasoned with garlic and aromatic autumn spices.  Pretty much all natural ingredients.  I love that about their items.  While it is a little costly $16.00 each or 2 for $28.00 this stew makes a great meal, and calls for 3lbs of pork, so it will feed quite a few people.  Great to make a big batch and freeze part of it for future meals.

Let's just say that I loved this sooo much and it is sooo easy that I went back to the store and purchased 2 more bottle so I have them over the winter.  (I think this is a seasonal item, according to the store clerk)

So here's how I made my Sunday Supper.

I took 3 lbs of pork loin and cut it up into cubes.  Both the jar and the recipe call for pork shoulder but I prefer the leaner pork loin.  Use what you feel is best.  Even chicken would be good.



I seasoned the pork with salt and pepper and threw it in my slow cooker.  Then I poured the jar of stew stater over the pork and cooked it on high for 3 hours.  Easy!



Once it was done, it was pull apart tender!




 I served it over rice with some nice Italian country bread.



YUM!



So if you are inclined to make this from scratch...here is the recipe or try the bottle! (I won't tell)


Pork and Pumpkin Stew

by Williams-Sonoma

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb. boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp. chicken demi-glace
  • 2 tsp. tomato paste
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbs. applesauce
  • 9 oz. canned diced tomatoes with juices
  • 1 lb. peeled and diced (3/4-inch dice) pumpkin or winter squash, such as kabocha
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh sage
  • 4 tsp. chicken stock concentrate mixed with 2 cups water, or 2 cups chicken stock

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 325°F.

Season the pork with salt and black pepper. In a 3 1/2-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Working in batches, brown the pork on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium and warm the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, demi-glace, tomato paste, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, cloves and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the vinegar, applesauce, tomatoes with their juices, pumpkin, sage, stock and pork. Bring to a boil and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the pot to the oven and cook until the pork is fork-tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Skim the fat off the sauce. Serve the stew over mashed potatoes or rice.



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Layered Pumpkin Bread



Can you believe it is almost the end of October?

And I haven't made one pumpkin recipe yet???

What's up with that?

I love pumpkin...anything pumpkin.  Dad used to call me "punkin".  So I'm partial to it!  I guess the only excuse I can dream up is that it is so dang warm here it doesn't feel like fall yet...or I could just say that I've been eating apples instead.

So now I've gone and done it. 

We went to the pumpkin patch over the weekend and I got in the mood!  Look at all these pumpkins and gourds.  Some of these are gigantic!  I couldn't believe my eyes.


and heirloom pumpkins...


So we came home with a load of pumpkins and gourds...some for carving, some for decorating..and some for cooking.

Off I went and so far I've made three pumpkin dishes.  You are in for a treat!  These are special.  I mean these are "special" pumpkin dishes.  A little unique, and a lot tasty!

First up is a dessert.  I know, I really don't make all that much in the way of desserts.  Sshh! I  can't afford having it around the house...but a girls got live every once in awhile!  This recipe would also be good as a breakfast or brunch dish...it's my Layered Pumpkin Bread.

Pumpkin bread is a family favorite.  I love the smell of it, and it reminds me of Mom baking.  She loves to bake and most of her recipes are just that, baked goodies!  And don't get me started on the pies.....we'll have to save that one for another day.

So this is an old Pumpkin Bread recipe that I added a layer of gingered cream cheese to it.  YUM YUM!  So much for the dieting.  However, I did make this a low carb version by substituting some of the sugar for Splenda.  So you could call this a lower carb Layered Pumpkin Bread if you want.  If you want the full carb version, just use sugar!

Here's how I made it.

In a small bowl using a mixer, cream the cream cheese and the Splenda. Add the sour cream and the egg. Beat until mixed.  Fold in the chopped crystallized ginger.  Set this aside for later.


In a medium bowl mix together your dry ingredients.  (flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt)




Now take a large mixing bowl and mix together the Splenda Sugar Blend, eggs, pumpkin, oil, and water.



Start adding your dry ingredients a little at a time.  Blend together.


Your batter should look like this.


Now put 2/3 of your batter in to your loaf pan.  Make sure that you grease the pan on the bottom and side first.  Add the cream cheese mixture over the pumpkin.  Top this layer with the remainder of the pumpkin mix.  This part is a little harder because the pumpkin mixture is thicker. Putting down dots of the mixture and then spreading it helps.  Just do your best to cover the cream cheese.  The bread will cover it when it bakes.



Pop it in the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes.  Let it cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes in the pan.


Take it out of the pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Serve!!! It's pumpkin time!!


Oh...the smell of warm pumpkin!



I'm in heaven!




Layered Pumpkin Bread

makes 1 loaf

1/4 or 2 oz. of an 8oz pkg cream cheese, softened
2 T Splenda
1/2 c sour cream
1 egg
1 T crystallized ginger, chopped

1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 t  cinnamon 
1/2 t ginger
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t salt

1 c Splenda Sugar Blend
2 eggs
1/2 of a 15 oz can of pumpkin (not pie filling)
1/2 c canola oil
1/6 c water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the bottom and up the side of a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan.  Set this aside.

Make the filling.  In a small bowl using a mixer, cream the cream cheese and the Splenda.  Add the sour cream and the egg.  Beat until mixed.  Fold in the chopped ginger.  Set this aside.

To make the batter, in a medium bowl combine your dry ingredients, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt.

In a large mixing bowl mix your Splenda, eggs, pumpkin, oil, and water together.  Mix on medium until incorporated.  Slowly add in your dry ingredients a little at a time.  Mix until moistened.

Spoon about 2/3 of the batter into the loaf pan.  Add your cream cheese layer over the pumpkin layer.  Then add the remainder of the pumpkin batter over the cream cheese layer.  

Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes.  If your testing stick comes out clean it is done.  Cool on a wire rack for 10 min then remove from the pan and allow to cool completely.  Store any leftovers in the refrigerator. 

cream cheese filling adapted from Kraft


Monday, October 24, 2011

Monster Mash



It's almost Halloween Time!

I LOVE Halloween.  Ever since I was little I remember dressing up for Halloween.  Back in the day you had those old paper or plastic outfits with the plastic mask with the string that went around your head.  Yuk! Can you say suffocating?  Remember those?

Wow, have times changed.  I think my favorite costume was a gypsy.  I got to wear my mom's tiered skirt with a top that had elastic on the shoulders...and all the bangles that were my sisters.  So much fun!

It's a time where you can dress up anyway you want and it doesn't matter!  As I got older we started going down to Santa Monica Blvd. for Halloween.  They would have a parade of people dressed outrageously, closing off the street due to walk down the middle of it.  It's even on the news every year.  What an spectacle!

So since I love Halloween I saw this idea for a snack mix over on pinterest.  So I decided to go to my lab and create my own special "Monster Mash!"

It's a blend of sweet and salty snacks.  The snack are all fall colors, you will notice...keeping to the Halloween theme.  They make a great gift.  Take them to work, or display for your family to enjoy.  I made two jars full of the snacks, giving one to MGG for his staff to enjoy, and the other went to my crew at work.  I caught MGG eating out of his while he thought I wasn't looking...such a snacker!  I'd be surprised if his staff even saw any of this stuff.

See how cute?



Here's the ingredients I used.  Feel free to mix up your own batch using your favorite snacks.

Monster Mash

Mini Pretzel twists
Cheese Its
Honey Nut Cheerios
Candy Corn
Kettle Corn
Chocolate Teddy Grahams
Reece's Pieces

Just dump all the ingredients in the largest bowl you have and mix them together.  Spoon in to airtight jars.  I got these jars are walmart...they are perfect!
Tie with a cute color coordinated bow and you are set!







Hope you enjoy your Monster Mash!!!


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pear and Blue Cheese Salad


Don't you love salads?

Another salad I always adored is from Trader Joe's.  They have a Pear and Gorgonzola salad that is killer.   So I set out to recreate that salad, and I must say...it's rather easy, and certainly tasty.

Take advantage of the fresh pears in season right now.  So light and crisp!

This blends some great flavors together with pear, blue cheese (instead of the Gorgonzola) for a little more punch, dried cherries (tangy), and walnuts (for a depth of flavor).  Spectacular fall flavors!

This is a great salad to accompany any dinner, or for a light lunch.  I hope you like it.

Check out my Harvest Salad as well, for some more great fall flavors.

Doesn't this look refreshing? 


Want some?



Don't forget a piece of nice crusty bread!



Pear and Blue Cheese Salad

Serves 4

4 c Green leaf lettuce, torn
½ c dried cherries
2 pears, peeled and sliced
1/3 c walnuts, toasted
1/3 c blue cheese crumbled
Olive oil vinaigrette (I used Newman’s)

Directions:

Wash and dry your lettuce, tearing into bite sized pieces.  In a skillet over low heat add your walnuts, and toast for 3 min. 
 
In a large bowl add your lettuce, dried cherries, pears, walnuts, and blue cheese.

Toss with a light amount of salad dressing.  Serve.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sunday Supper: Fajita Bar



Time for family and friends for Sunday Supper!

This entry is a non-traditional Sunday supper.  It's a time to have fun, good conversation, games, and laughter.  Let's make a Fajita Bar!

Menu:

Grilled Chicken Fajitas
Grilled Peppers, Onions, and Tomatoes
Ranchero Beans
Spanish Rice
Cranberry Spritzers

Condiments:

Fresh lime wedges
Flour tortillas
Chips and Salsa (my Salsa Roja works well!)
Sour Cream
Shredded Cheese
Guacamole

Here's the set up:  You'll want a big enough space for all the different dishes.  Using small plates or bowls of different sizes to hold your food.   I used a low coffee table as the buffet table.  That way everyone could sit around the area and create their dishes, and have conversations at the same time.  It worked really well.   Here was my set up.




Next for the food prep:  Keep it easy, keep it simple.  Take a little help from some convenience foods, such as the guacamole, or buying frozen pepper and onion mix, it's a time saver.  I used peppers, onions, and tomatoes.  I cut all my vegetables, I was on a roll.    Different pepper colors make the dish colorful and interesting.  Here they are.  (I just noticed the red onion is missing...but that was grilled too!)



For the chicken I used Williams-Somona's Fajita Rub.  $10.00 at Williams Sonoma. (I usually make my own spice blends but I couldn't resist this when I smelled it in the store!) Just rub some of it on the chicken before grilling.  It provides a bold Latin-style seasoning flavor that combines smoky chilies, cumin and garlic with tangy lime and aromatic herbs. 


Bold Latin flavors in a rub!!




Then MGG grilled the chicken.  You can grill indoors, outdoors, or just pan fry them.  Then you want to cut them up into long strips.

For the ranchero beans, I just opened a can of pinto beans and jazzed them up a bit with some chili powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, and cumin.  Nice and zesty.

Serve with warm tortillas, your favorite Spanish rice recipe and don't forget all the condiments. (Ideas are listed above.)   The variety of condiments make it fun and everyone loves to create their own dish!

Here's the finished product:


Sorry for the dark pic but we were having "mood" lighting!





Let me say the night was a hit, the food fabulous, and the fun...unbeatable!  Enjoy your next Sunday Supper!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Spiced Plum and Blueberry Parfait



One of my go to meals for breakfast on the weekend when I'm in a hurry is a smoothie or a parfait.

What better than a parfait to get your dairy, fruits, and some crunchy granola in to your diet.  It's healthy for you!  Great source of vitamins, calcium, fibers, and other goodies...

So today I'm bringing your a fall parfait. A Spiced Plum and Blueberry Parfait.   Full of warm spices.  Cinnamon to be exact.  Do you like Cinnamon?  It's a warm, wonderful, aromatic spice.  I could roll around in it!  But I digress...back to the parfait.

So, this parfait has some late summer/autumn fruits in it.  A nice black plum that been peeled, and sliced, and then tossed with cinnamon.  Also blueberries compliment this very well.  I also used a honey and almond granola which also lends to the warmth.

This is easy to put together.  I'm all about easy!

Just peel and slice your plums.  Then sprinkle a little cinnamon on them.  Not too much, it can be strong.

Now you want to take some yogurt plain or vanilla, plain Greek if you like, (I used plain Greek) and add a touch of cinnamon, and stir it up.  This will add another layer to your fall flavors.



Here's how  you layer it.  Place some of the yogurt in your glass.  Add some sliced plums, blueberries, and granola.  Repeat, ending with the granola.



Voila! You are done.  A healthy breakfast, or snack in a flash!  Enjoy, the flavors are really delishhhh!



Ummm...soooo good!




Spiced Plum and Blueberry Parfait

serves 1

1 black plum, peeled and sliced
1/4 tsp (heaping) cinnamon for sprinkling
1 6oz container of plain Greek or vanilla yogurt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 T blueberries
3 T honey and almond granola

Directions:

Peel and slice your plum.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.  Set aside.

In a small bowl mix your yogurt and cinnamon together until incorporated.  In a glass begin to layer your parfait.  Place 1/2 of the yogurt mixture in the bottom of the glass.  Add 1/2 of the spiced plums, 1 1/2 T of blueberries, and 1 1/2 T of granola.  Repeat layers ending with the granola.

Enjoy!





Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Harvest Salad



It's starting to be apple and pear season.. yea!

I LOVE apples and pears.  Mostly apples...  I miss the summer fruit...but grew up eating apples constantly.  Whenever I'm hungry to this day still mom says "Eat an apple!" 

I love experiencing the different varieties and flavors of apples, there are so many to choose from!  One of our favorite things to do is go to the local farm over here called Tapia Bros. and choose some tree ripened apples...they smell soooo good!

So the other night we were having a quick steak sandwich and I saw this recipe from Madison, over at Espresso and Cream for her Autumn Chopped Salad, and decided to make something similar.  Espresso and Cream is a fantastic blog.  If you have time go over and say Hi.  Thanks for the great recipe Madison!

This is my favorite salad right now...

I love the mix of fresh pears, apples, cranberries, and pecans....it's a Harvest Salad!

Now I got carried away making this salad and forgot to take all the step by step pictures....however, all you do is really chop everything up and throw it in a salad bowl. It's a chopped salad you see.  The dressing is a blend of sweet and tangy...sweet from the poppy seed dressing and tangy from some balsamic dressing.  I gave the proportions I used but feel free to experiment to suit your taste buds.

Tip:  Make sure to pick an apple you like.  I used a Pink Lady cause I love the sweet tart blend.  Also, make sure that your pear is ripe but still a little firm.  Who wants mushy pears!  I used a nice Bartlett pear.

So here's the end result.  I must say that I put some of the salad in a container for leftovers prior to adding the dressing so it wouldn't wilt.  It held up beautifully for 2 days.



Try this, it's truly amazing with all the fall flavors, bright and crisp!  Look how pretty!  Man, I want some now!




Harvest Salad
Adapted from Espresso and Cream Autumn Chopped Salad



Serves 4

Ingredients

6 c chopped romaine lettuce
2 medium pears, diced

2 medium apples, diced (pink lady are nice and sweet)
1 large carrot, grated
½ c dried cranberries
1/2 c chopped pecans
½ c feta cheese, crumbled
1/3 c Poppy seed Salad Dressing
¼ c (scant) Balsamic Vinaigrette

Instructions:

Chop all you ingredients, lettuce, pears, apples, carrot, and pecans.  In a large salad bowl combine the lettuce, pears, apples, carrot, cranberries, pecans, and feta cheese.

In a separate medium bowl mix your dressings together.  Drizzle over your salad to you desired amount and toss to covers all ingredients. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday Supper: Spiced Roasted Chicken and Vegetables



What does Sunday Supper mean to you?

A time to slow down on Sunday before going back to the work week?  A time to make suppers that take a little longer to make?  A time for you family and friends to gather around the table to enjoy a wonderful meal, laughter, and good conversation?

They mean all those things.

Fall brings Sunday Suppers to mind.  I guess because it's time to turn the oven on again.  To cook low and slow, for roasting, braising, slow cooking. 

So I bring to you a new seres of posts especially tapered to enjoying the Sunday Supper.

First up:  Roasting

Roasting is a cooking method that uses dry heat such as your oven and is a slower method of cooking that browns the meat through carmelization. It's suited to larger cuts of meat as well as vegetables. In the oven the hot air circulates cooking all sides evenly producing tender juicy meats.

So let's make a spicy hearty meal.  Spiced Roasted Chicken and Vegetables.

This is a satisfying dish with the flavors of Morocco and India.  It will warm you with the depth of cinnamon and paprika.  It's really delicious, and I hope you enjoy it!


First make your spice rub by mixing together the paprika and cinnamon.



Cut up your vegetables.  A rough chop will do.  Place the vegetables on a rimmed cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.



Rub your chicken with the spice rub and place it on the pan with the vegetables. 



That's it.  Now let the oven do it's magic.  Place in a preheated 450 degree oven and cook for about 40 minutes until the chicken is done (juices run clear) and browned.

Transfer to a platter and enjoy with family and friends!



Hope you will try this for your next Sunday Supper.



Spice Roasted Chicken and Vegetables
serve 4
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp paprika
1  red onions, cut into 1/2-in. wedges
1  1 lb carrots, cut into sticks

1  1 lb red and yellow new potatoes, cut in ½ or quarters

2 Tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

4 bone-in chicken breasts

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Mix cinnamon and paprika in a small bowl.

Cut vegetables.  Place on a large rimmed cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

Rub chicken with spice rub.  Place chicken on the pan with the vegetables.

Cook for 40 minutes until chicken is done and browned.  Transfer to a platter and serve.


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