Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pumpkin Banana Mousse Tart

What was your favorite part of Thanksgiving? I love so much about T-day that it's hard to choose. First, the Macy's Day Parade I love love love this. You should know, I was the president of the marching band in high school. Yes, I was that cool. People, I LOVE a marching band. Don't get me started. When I lived in Boston one time my friend and I were wandering around one weekend and I heard the familiar cadence of a marching band and immediately we were on the hunt from the source of this sweet sound. As my good friend Gretchen says, "I've always been this cool." I like me.

Ok back to the best parts of Thanksgiving. Obviously, visiting with friends and family. Oh, and the wine needed to participate in said visit. I kid, I kid. But seriously, get some white wine in the fridge before I come over. Pinot Gris please or a dry Riesling.

The other thing I love is the food. Homemade cranberry sauce, I die. Stuffing, shut your mouth I love this stuff. You all know Joel's favorite part is the quick bread.

True story, my mother's dog ate the pumpkin loaf. this year in a covert operation. Joel was sad. End of story.

Anyway, the best part of Thanksgiving in my world. The dessert! As you all know, I love pumpkin and pie is the obvious choice. But, pumpkin pie is dense and a little too much. A few years ago I rolled out this Barefoot Contessa Pumpkin Banana Mousse Tart recipe and loved it to the moon and back. So this year I dusted it off and did it again. Add some freshly whipped cream and you can die and go to heaven.





It's the holiday and it's a rule that your whipped cream is 2/3 the volume as your dessert. It's a rule, look it up.


This is such a delicious dessert and a fun take on the more traditional pumpkin pie. The banana adds a depth and interest and the mousse's light and airy texture is perfect. I prefer this to regular pumpkin pie. Also, graham cracker crust. Enough said. It's amazing. Ina know's what she's doing. I did tweek it ever so slightly, less sugar and fat free half and half. At the end of the day if you're going to make a mousse you have to first have whipped cream and you have to use heavy cream. There's no way around it. It's well worth the calories so just do it.

Pumpkin Banana Mousse Tart
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa
Serves 10

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (14 whole crackers)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup fat free half-and-half
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 extra-large egg yolks
  • 1 package (2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
  • 1 ripe banana, finely mashed
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1/2 cup cold heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon, and butter in a bowl. Then press into a tart pan. Bake pan for 10 minutes in oven and then set aside to cool. 

To prepare the filling set up a double boiler with a sauce pan with an inch of simmering water and a heat proof bowl on top. Heat the half and half, pumpkin puree, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. This took me about 10 minutes. In a small bowl whisk egg yolks and then temper with the hot pumpkin mixture. To do this, add a small amount of the hot filling into the eggs and stir to help gently raise the egg's temperature and avoid scrambling eggs. Once tempered add yolks to the double boiler. Heat for 5 minutes or until the filling start to thicken. 

In a small bowl dissolve the gelatin in a 1/4 cup of cold water. Add the orange zest and banana to gelatin. Combine with pumpkin mixture and allow time to cool. 

Mix the heavy cream and sugar with hand mixer until soft peaks form. This takes a few minutes. Gently fold the whipped cream into cooled pumpkin mixture. Pour mixture into crust. Cool in refrigerator for a few hours or over night.

Serve with mounds of freshly whipped cream. 
Enjoy! 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Post-Thanksgiving Recovery Meal

I'm taking a break from decorating for Christmas (read: procrastinating) and it currently looks like a bomb went off in my apartment. Isn't that always the way? Two weeks ago I went to an information session at Pottery Barn on decorating for the holidays and now I'm trying to recall the advice and set up my decorations like a professional. Ahem, you can guess how that's going. So, I thought this is the best time to pop in to a share a fabulous recipe I made pre-Thanksgiving but would be a nice and light post-turkey day meal.

Surprise of all surprises I did not find this in Martha Stewart or Cooking Light's recipe arsenal. It's a  Real Simple recipe that I tweeked and added some green veggies to since it was lacking in this one area. It's a super easy vegetable salmon bake and here's the final product.



It is a fast and easy dinner which makes it a contender for a weekday meal. I know some people *cough* attempt 90 minute meals *cough* during the week. ahem. So now that I've confessed I want to tell you all I'm a reformed woman and am attempting more reasonable meals during the week. Of course my problem is I do not often read the recipe all the way through. Doh! Don't be like me. 

Back to the salmon bake all I did was roast, at 400 degrees, the potatoes, brussel sprouts, and mushrooms tossed in a tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes softened. 


Next up plop on the salmon. 

Plop, it's a real cooking term. Look it up. 

Oh be sure to salt and pepper your salmon, unless of course you enjoy bland food. 


The final step is to pour some lemon, dijon mustard, and apple cider quick vinaigrette on top. 



This will get you over the post-Thanksgiving food hang over. Check out the Real Simple website for their version.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Christmas crafts are coming

This week is the beginning of the holiday season and so I have so many DIY projects up my sleeve so I'm going to preview a couple. First thing you should know about me and crafts...they generally aren't my thing. However, between pinterest and blogs that I read I decided to give crafts a second look.

Earlier this year I decided I wanted to learn how to sew so that one day I could use my powers to make pillows and window treatments. Who says I don't dream big? As luck would have it my mother had an extra (read: 30 year old machine) that she wasn't using because she had a shiny new machine. Fabulous!

I found what looked to be fairly simple and signed up the woman who birthed me to come out and help, oh and teach me about sewing. It's the cutest fabric key chain holder. As is usually the case, I underestimated how long this "little" project would take. At the end of the day, we had cut, iron, fused, and begun to sew some of the beginnings together. Here's the finished prototype.


My mother the hand model. Later this week I will be finishing the project. Stay tuned for the step by step.

Another Christmas project I have under way, as of yesterday after a quick trip to Michaels for supplies, is this Pottery Barn hack.


If it turns out well I may make a second for a girl friend of mine (who never reads my blog so it would remain a surprise). 


The other project I want to share is the chair I have big plans to reupholster.


Clearly this is not a Christmas gift but I figure if I put it on the internet it will give me the kick to get this project moving and fast! This is clearly a bit more ambitious. But this baby was a steal and in amazing shape albeit a bit dated. First things first, I need to pick up the new fabric. Also, the wood needs to be reconditioned. Finally, the big project. Should be exciting.

What projects do you all have under way for the holiday?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chicken chick pea salad



How good does that look? I'm so modest, right, right!! A friend of mine turned me onto this a couple of years ago after she went to a talk by a dietitian who made this. Since then,  I've played around with the ingredients and I absolutely love it and must share with you.

I start with this:


Yes, our friend the rotisserie chicken. Can you say, semi-homemade? Only with a little help from the deli instead of from a jar of frosting as a truffle. People I just can't get over that move from Sandy. Anyway, resist the urge to eat the crispy skin and pull apart the meat and break into small piece, like so:



Fabulous. Now I add a whole bunch of other add-ins:


Oh chick peas how I love you.


I love the mild but also sharp flavor red onion adds. 


Celery should be in all salads: tuna, chicken, you get the picture. 


How perfect do these tomatoes look? I love them. 


I could eat the salad at this point. But wait, it gets better!

Okay, so now I'm ready to add the dressing. I'm going to walk you through how I make a simple vinaigrette.



Start with a tablespoon of dijon mustard. Trust me with this one. A. even my friends who don't eat dijon, or mustard for that matter, enjoy this dressing. 


Add 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice. I also semi-homemade this by using bottled lemon juice rather than fresh. It works just fine and I always have it on hand. Don't judge me people. 


Add a few gulps of red wine vinegar, or any vinegar that you love, I really love the delicate flavor from red wine vinegar in this version. Also, be sure to add salt and pepper to taste since at this point I haven't added any seasoning to the mix. 

Now, many vinaigrettes will recommend you add olive oil in a 2:1 ratio to the vinegar. I inverse that ratio because I am going for a little healthier than just a loads of olive oil. I've made it this way for years and trust me you'll love this version and it's so much lighter tasting than other versions. 


Now whisk it, whisk it good. The mustard is key in this business to help emulsify the dressing and keep it together rather than oil and vinegar and you know how well that mixes.


Finally, dump the dressing over the salad and serve. I love it over a bed of greens but it is also delicious in a pita. 




Chicken chick pea salad

Serves 5-6

Ingredients:
1 rotisserie chicken
1 can chick peas, rinsed
1 small or 1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
3 celery stalks, finely diced
1 cup grape tomatoes halved
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Start with chicken slightly cooled. Remove skin on chicken and shred chicken with two forks or your finger and place in a medium bowl. Add rinsed chick peas, diced onion, celery, and tomatoes.

Prepare the vinaigrette, start with mustard in a measuring cup or small bowl, add lemon juice and red wine vinegar, while whisking stream olive oil. Whisk until dressing comes together and emulsifies. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Pour mixture over chicken salad.

Serve immediately.
Enjoy!




Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Frittata love

Things I love most on the weekend: brunch with friends and eggs.

It is not a secret that I love eggs. I often whip up some scrambled eggs loaded with veggies and topped off with salsa for lunch or dinner. Sometimes if I'm feeling adventurous I'll throw in some cheese. I mean who says I live on the edge?

Also, I used to share sauteed zucchini and eggs with toasted italian bread as a light lunch. Fresh summer tomato slices on the side is to. die. for.  I am already mourning the amazing fresh tomatoes I chomped on this summer. So sad we have to wait months to get a fresh juicy tomato.

This brings me to the point of my ramblings of eggs. Recently, I hosted a brunch and wanted a to serve eggs but not my usual scrambled variety. I chose a frittata over a quiche for a few simple reasons.

One, no crust to make or buy. Two, I don't find the crust all that enjoyable in my eggs. Three, this is so easy-peasy and really I am all about easy for brunch.

My version of frittata included some spinach and mushrooms.  So delicious. Cheese would be fabulous in this as well, but really what food doesn't cheese improve?



If you've never made a frittata you should. There really is no need to jot down a recipe. Saute up the veggies, dump eggs over (I used 8 eggs for 5 people), let it set, and throw the pan into a 400 degree oven for a few minutes until eggs are no longer "jiggling." Serve your amazed crowd. 

What's your favorite brunch food?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

Is there anything better than mac and cheese this time of year? I love comfort food, and who doesn't, but try to stay away from it. But everyone knows that Jessica Seinfeld, and some other woman not married to a celebrity, published a cookbook chocked full of "sneaky" ways to get more veggies into kid foods that are often beige. I think she suggested avocado in brownies, now I could try that. I've also seen recipes for black bean brownies that sounds divine. Oops, I've digressed. I find myself on the opposite side of the sneaky spectrum. I try to sneak delicious cheese into otherwise fairly healthy items.

When I saw this recipe on the Cooking Light website I knew I had to try it. With our CSA I try to cook what we get because that's enough of a challenge to keep on top of all of that food. Recently, Joel's sweet mother gave us some butternut squash and I knew what I wanted to do with it.

I use Cooking Light recipes so often that I swear I could be a recipe tester. Most often I end up really enjoying their balance between health and also delicious. I made a few alterations to the recipe but this dish did not disappoint.


Bear with me, with the sun setting before 5pm we're in for the long haul of fewer pictures with natural light.

This happens to be the kind of recipe that has several steps and dirtied many, many dishes. It turns out to have been worth it.


The most difficult part of this recipe is peeling and dicing the squash. Stay tuned, in a future post I'll walk through how I do it. Hint, I do not use a vegetable peeler for this beast.

I didn't take a ton of pictures because I was working on speeding up the recipe because I made this on a week night. The dish was a huge success. Joel loved it and I took it to a work pot luck and people went crazy it was so delicious. Okay, I'm exaggerating but people really enjoyed it. Give it a whirl and let me know your thoughts!

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese
Adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients
  • 3 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 [1-pound] squash)
  • 1 1/4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth 
  • 2 cups fat-free milk
  • garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fat-free Greek yogurt 
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) shredded cheese - I used 50% lighter cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 1 pound uncooked whole wheat pasta - I used cork screw shape so the cheese would stick in there! 
  • Cooking spray 
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil 
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

 Preheat oven to 375.

Bring butternut squash, chicken broth, milk, and garlic to a boil in a large pot and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until squash is fork tender about 25 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place mixture in a blender with salt, pepper, and greek yogurt. When using a blender with hot foods be sure to remove the center of the lid and place a kitchen towel over hole to allow steam to escape. Blend until smooth. Dump mixture into large bowl with cheeses to combine.

In the meantime, prepare the pasta according the directions on the box to el dente. I actually prefer my pasta slightly undercooked for mac and cheese so that it can sop up more creamy milk goodness during baking. Toss pasta with blended mixture. Pour into 9 x 13 inch pan that was coated with nonstick cooking spray.

On the stove top over medium heat toss panko and olive oil until panko darkens. Sprinkle over top of mac and cheese. Sprinkle remaining parmesan over panko. Pop in the oven for 25 minutes or until bubbly and browned on top.

Enjoy!




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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

PBJ Oatmeal Time

I love oatmeal and as you know I'm trying to try different toppings and variations. I whipped up some steel cut oats and checked out what goodies I had on hand. I gravitated toward the peanut butter so naturally(blueberry) jelly is its counter point. I threw in half a banana for good measure. Let me show you the goods.


Also, don't be afraid of steel cut oats. They're easy and delicious you just need to allow for about 30 minutes cooking time.

In related news have you seen this youtube video?


I work with people far cooler than me and was exposed to this video for that reason. Worry not, I like me. This video is hilarious and appropriate for today's oatmeal post.

Now it's your turn, what have you enjoyed in your oatmeal lately?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pinterest Recipe Review

As you know I'm hooked to Pinterest. It is visually appealing and many posts inspire me with a new take on home decor, confidence in diy projects, and of course recipes. As a matter of fact I've used pinterest for many recipes I have posted here including, zucchini pizzamy favorite slawkale chips, and of course beet chips and these are just some of the recipes I've tried thanks to the site. Pinterest has helped me explore recipes and even got me to eat beets which is no small task! In general, the recipes I have tried are fantastic.

Not too long ago I was excited when I saw a pin for quinoa broccoli cheese bake, pinned here.


How unbelievable does this look? Plus it's has healthy and nutty-flavored quinoa and broccoli oh and of course CHEESE! I was totally in. So I hastily threw it together and baked it off.








It's so easy as you can see it's essentially mixing a few ingredients together and precooking the quinoa before baking off together.  I even used frozen broccoli to save time. So A+ for quick and easy. Also, quinoa is such a power house and healthy food and its unique and pleasant nutty flavor adds a lot in terms of interest to the dish.

But, I wasn't crazy about this dish. It's so sad because the pin looked so great and even my finished dish was appealing! I suspect it was the canned soup that gave the dish its somewhat artificial taste. I may give it another whirl and take out the canned soup and instead use a simple b├ęchamel. Also, I should say in defense of the original recipe I deviated from the recipe in an effort to choose somewhat healthier options and used reduced sodium soup as well as lower fat cheese. I think the cheese was just fine but the reduced sodium soup may have contributed to the "off" flavor. Contrary to what Sandra Lee believes semi-homemade isn't always the best choice. I have learned my lesson.

As an aside, did anyone ever see the Semi-homemade episode when she made "truffels"...umm she used canned frosting and rolled it in chocolate powder. Blech. There's no way that worked out well. I will say she knows her cocktails! See, we all have our strengths.

So there you have it, the good, the bad, and the ugly of pinterest. You best believe it will not deter me from my pinterest-cooking adventures! If I remake this recipe with better success I will be sure to share and include the recipe.

What new recipes have you tried recently?