Monday, October 31, 2011

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

If you're carving a jack-o-lantern for Halloween, don't throw out the seeds. With a little work, they can be turned into a delicious snack!

  • seeds from 1 large pumpkin (about 1.5 C.)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter (can also use 1 Tbsp. oil instead but I like the flavor of butter better)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika (can also use chili powder or cumin)
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
When you're carving your pumpkin, set aside the seeds/stringy pulp. Rinse the seeds in a colander in the sink to remove all the gunk. Spread the clean seeds on a baking sheet and leave them to dry overnight. (You can skip this step, but I've found that the seeds toast much better when they've dried fully.) 

Melt the butter (I use the microwave), then add the spices and stir to combine. Add the seeds and stir until they are evenly coated. Pour the seeds back onto the baking sheet and spread into one layer. Bake at 300 for 20 minutes, stirring once.

Cool completely. The seeds can be stored in a sealed container for several days, but in our house, they usually only last a day. They are so addictive.

If you want to make a sweet treat, you can use cinnamon-sugar instead of the savory spices. Delicious!

Halloween Treats: Spider Cupcakes & Pumpkin Brownie Bites

These are two easy treats that I've made recently for Halloween parties.

Spider Cupcakes

These are so cute and easy to make. I made chocolate cupcakes (recipes from Emmy's blog). After frosting them, we placed an Oreo cookie in the middle of each. Then, we put a small dollop of icing in the center of the cookie. Then (and this is the most time consuming part), we attached 8 pieces of licorice for the legs. Then, we used a small amount of frosting to attach M&Ms for the eyes. They were such a huge hit!

Pumpkin Brownie Bites

A friend of mine posted the link to this recipe. The only modification I made was I used regular muffin tins and lined them with cupcake wrappers (it made enough batter for 12). I baked them for 20 minutes and they came out perfectly. Even my 5 year old was gobbling them up!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pumpkin French Toast

This is a tasty and simple french toast recipe. The pumpkin is added mainly for color; the spices are what really make it sing. Serve with maple syrup.


  • 8-10 thick slices of day-old bread (baguette, brioche, challah, etc)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 C. buttermilk (can also use regular milk - I like the tang of buttermilk and usually have it on hand)
  • 1/3 C. pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 tsp. each ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and/or all-spice
  • butter or oil, for the pan
  • maple syrup, for serving
In a shallow dish, beat the eggs and sugar. Add the buttermilk and pumpkin and stir to combine. Add the spices and set aside. 

Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium heat. Grease with butter or oil, if desired. Dip each piece of bread into the milk mixture and allow to soak for a few seconds. Allow the excess to drip back into the bowl before putting the bread in the pan. Cook the bread 2-3 minutes on each side, until they are golden brown. Lower the heat if the bread is getting too dark.

Serve warm, with lots of maple syrup.

Spaghetti Squash

I had never had spaghetti squash before we joined our CSA a few years ago. If you've never had it before, once you cook it, the flesh becomes stringy just like spaghetti. It holds up very well and can be substituted for pasta in many dishes. My favorite way to have it is with wilted greens, olive oil, caramelized onions, garlic, and parmesan cheese.

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch of greens - I used beet greens, but spinach, chard, or mustard greens would also be great
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parmesan cheese, for garnish

I find it easier to roast the squash whole. You can also use a sharp knife to slice it in half first to cut down on the cooking time.

Thoroughly wash the outside of the squash. Use a fork to poke holes all around the outside of the squash. Place in a shallow roasting pan and bake at 400 for 1 hour.

Remove from the oven to a cutting board and slice in half. If the flesh is still a little hard, put the 2 halves back in the oven for about 15 more minutes.

Once the flesh is tender, use a spoon to remove the seeds. Then use a large fork to scrape the flesh away from the skin.

Towards the end of the squash's baking time, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook slowly, until the onions begin to caramelize.

Add the greens and cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm until the squash is ready.

Add the squash to the pan and toss to combine. Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper if desired.

Serve with parmesan cheese on top.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Eating Down" the Fridge/Freezer/Pantry

Every so often, I go through my fridge, freezer, and pantry to use up the things that have been in there a while. This calls for some creativity on my part, having to throw together a meal with odds and ends.

I wanted to give you an example of a meal I made after finding the following things I wanted to use up: chicken tenderloins (freezer), marinated hearts of palm (pantry), cucumbers (last of the crop from our garden), risotto mix (pantry), carrots (fridge).

Here's what I came up with: Baked Chicken with Onions, Hearts of Palm, and Feta Cheese; Risotto with Vegetables; Honey-Glazed Carrots; and Quick-Pickled Cucumbers. Recipes below.

Baked Chicken with Onions, Hearts of Palm, and Feta Cheese


  • 1 lb. chicken breasts or tenderloins, cut into equal-sized pieces (and pounded slightly if necessary)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 jar of marinated hearts of palm, mostly drained
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 C. crumbled feta cheese
Pour the oil into an 8x8 baking pan. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Sprinkle the onions, garlic, and hearts of palm over the chicken. Season with pepper to taste. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the chicken over. Sprinkle the feta cheese on top and bake for 10 minutes more, until the chicken is no longer pink.

Risotto with Vegetables

I had a box mix for risotto, which was easy to make. Towards the end of the cooking time, I threw in some frozen vegetables. I read somewhere that adding frozen vegetables to boxed rice dishes or frozen pasta dishes  helps decrease the amount of sodium per serving and also gets more veggies on your plate.

Honey-Glazed Carrots

These are cooked on the stove-top, but they turn out nice and roasted.

  • 1 bag of carrots, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the carrots for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally. If you don't want the carrots to be very browned, turn the heat down lower. Before serving, drizzle the carrots with the honey and season with salt and pepper.

Quick-Pickled Cucumbers

  • 1/2 C. white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp.pickling spice (or combine whatever you have on hand: dill, mustard seed, peppercorns, garlic, etc)
  • 2 small cucumbers, chopped
In a small saucepan, heat the vinegar, sugar, salt, and spices over medium-high heat until boiling. Remove from the heat and add the cucumbers. Set aside to cool. Pour off the pickling liquid and spices before serving.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Simple and Delicious Pumpkin Muffins

This is my go-to pumpkin muffin recipe. I think they're great as-is, but they are easy to gussy up, by adding nuts to the batter or a streusel or cinnamon-sugar mixture on top. Or if you're my 5 year old, you could add chocolate chips to the batter because, in his opinion, everything is better with chocolate chips.


  • 1 1/2 C AP flour
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. each of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and/or all-spice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 C. vegetable oil
  • 1 C. pureed pumpkin
In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs, then add the oil and pumpkin and mix until combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and  stir until just combined. Grease 12 muffin tins and fill each with batter until about 2/3 full. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 12 muffins.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Stuffed Acorn Squash

I created this recipe to use up some things from last week's CSA box (acorn squash, mustard greens, and apples). This is one of those recipes that is easy to customize based on what you have on hand. Instead of bulgur wheat, you could use quinoa. Instead of mustard greens, you could use kale, chard, or spinach. Instead of apples, you could used dried fruit, like raisins or cranberries.


  • 2 small acorn squash, halved and seeds removed
  • 3/4 C. bulgur wheat
  • 1.5 C chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 bunch of mustard greens, washed and torn (large stems removed)
  • 1 apple, cored and diced
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • parmesan cheese, for garnish
Put the squash on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 425 for 45 minutes, until tender. 

While the squash is baking, combine the bulgur wheat and broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Add the butter and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, saute the onion, garlic, and celery in a skillet over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add the greens and cook until wilted, then add the apple and cook for about 5 more minutes. 

Remove the squash from the oven. Scoop out some of the flesh of the cooked acorn squash, leaving enough to keep the shape of the shell. 

Add the squash to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the bulgur wheat and stir until combined. Taste for seasoning.

Spoon the bulgur wheat mixture into the acorn squash shells. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake for about 5 minutes to melt the cheese and heat everything through.

Concord Grape Juice & Jelly

One of the things I love about our CSA is that the family who owns the farm also owns a vineyard. That means for a few weeks every fall we get concord grapes. If you've never had homemade grape juice or jelly, it's really so much better than what you can buy at the store (in my opinion anyway).

Grape juice is pretty easy to make:
1. Rinse a few bunches of concord grapes.
2. Pick the grapes off the stems (it's okay if a few small ones are left) and put them in a large pot.
3. Add enough cold water to cover the grapes.
4. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 10 minutes. While the grapes are cooking, periodically mash them with a potato masher or back of a spoon to help them break down.

5. Pour the juice through a strainer into a large bowl. You may need to mash and stir the grape pulp to get the last bit of juice to go through.
6. Chill the juice before serving.

Obviously, the grape juice is delicious to drink all on its own, but I like to mix it with some sparkling water to make it a little more special.

Once you have fresh grape juice, it doesn't take much more to make jelly. Unlike making jam from stone fruits, you will need pectin to get the grape jelly to gel. I prefer to use liquid pectin, so these are the directions for that. Double check the directions on your box of pectin before proceeding.


  • 4 C. grape juice
  • 7 C. sugar
  • 1 envelope of liquid pectin
In a large pot, mix the juice and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Use the largest pot you have, as the juice will foam and quadruple in size when it starts to boil. I've had some success adding a pat of butter to the liquid to limit the foaming. Do NOT walk away from the stove or you will end up with grape syrup all over the place!!!! Once the juice and sugar is at a full boil, add the pectin and boil for 1 more minute, stirring continuously. 

Remove from the heat and ladle into sterilized jars - you will need about 8 small mason jars. If you want the jelly to be shelf-stable, you need to process your jars using a hot water bath. One of these days, I'll get all the equipment I need for canning and give it a try. For the time being, I just store the jars in the refrigerator - they will keep for about a month.

I have had good success cutting this recipe in half (using only half of the liquid pectin) to make a smaller amount of jelly. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Best Pumpkin Pancakes Ever!

I find that pumpkin pancakes can often be heavy. But with a few tweaks to my Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes recipe, I was able to create the fluffiest, lightest pumpkin pancakes ever.


  • 1 C. AP flour
  • 1/4 C. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. each of ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and/or allspice
  • 1 C. buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 C. pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 C. butter, melted and cooled slightly

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. In another bowl, beat together the buttermilk, egg, and pumpkin and then add to the dry ingredients. Add the melted butter and mix only to combine. It's okay for there to be small lumps - if you overmix, the pancakes won't be fluffy. Set the batter aside while you heat the griddle.

Heat the griddle (or a large pan) over medium heat. Grease lightly with oil or melted butter. Pour about 1/3 of a cup of batter per pancake onto the griddle. Cook until bubbles form on the surface, about 2 minutes, then flip and cook for just 1 minute more. 

Keep warm until ready to serve. Spread with butter, if desired, and serve with maple syrup.

Makes about 12 pancakes.