Saturday, November 13, 2010

November comfort foods...

Last night's acorn squash was a complete improvisation -- er, I mean success.  I was certainly inspired by this:

Pioneer Woman Cooks - Sweet-Roasted Rosemary Acorn Squash
and this:  Uggh, Martha.

But in the end I mixed butter(nobody will be upset if you sub vegan margarine or olive oil) and brown sugar, used a bit of dried rosemary (I'm too lazy to go downstairs and grab the rosemary growing by the pool), salt, pepper and 1 shallot chopped coarsely.  The last time I roasted acorn squash, I only used brown sugar and butter and it was certainly delicious.  This time, however I wanted a little more flavor, and I was pleased with the results.
Note about roasting squash: A lot of recipes will have the acorn squash just cut in half so that a delicious pool of brown sugar and butter forms in the middle...that's what I did last time, and its great for dipping, but we found the process of eating it just too messy.  Its really up to you.

As a side, my own favorite quinoa with walnuts and onions.

Speaking of quinoa, this morning I made something different for breakfast:  Quinoa Porridge.  Its very good, but I never add any extras until the end of my cooking.  Heat can destroy vanilla especially.  I have heard that adding sugar affects the way grains cook(no idea if its true), so just to be safe I left that out until the end, too.  Besides, it's always better to sweeten something after you've tasted it.  Its really hearty, and great topped with thawed frozen berries.  One recipe equals about one serving, or two small ones.
Yes, I made the bowl, too.
Hey I think both of these are gluten-free, too...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fall Favorites...

Whoever told me fall isn't as nice in the Pacific Northwest as back east must have been confused...It's just as nice and much, much longer.  Up until yesterday it has been in the 60's and partly cloudy.  Its grey now but the leaves have been colorful on the trees for weeks now,and it doesn't look like they're going anywhere anytime soon.

So of course, its time for a great sweater and some fall favorite recipes.  Disclaimer:  Cooking with fresh pumpkin is not for the faint of heart.  It takes all day and gets pretty messy, even if you cheat and roast it in the microwave instead of the oven.  That being said, I definitely recommend getting the small, flavorful pie-type pumpkins rather than cooking with a large jack-o-lantern type pumpkin.  I always like to cook with my jack-o-lantern, but cooking with smaller ones bred for pies makes an incredible difference.

Last week I made one of my favorite soups:  Creamy Thai Pumpkin Soup.

This soup is great, especially if you're a fan of tom kha gai or other thai food.  Some advice, however:  If you put all the ingredients in at the beginning as the recipe suggests, it ends up rather bland.  What I will do next time is actually cook the pumpkin in the broth, then later add some crushed garlic, lemongrass, coconut milk and other ingredients (its really good if you add fresh ginger, too) right before its done cooking.  While it cools, the ingredients will flavor the soup, and you won't lose any of the boldness. Also, please try to avoid the problem I always have:  missing some of the lemongrass before I puree it, which leaves it really stringy (a note about lemongrass:  even though the recipe doesn't really mention this, you do have to remove it. It won't puree smoothly no matter how long you try).

My second favorite pumpkin recipe is the best one to share.  These Easy Pumpkin Muffins are great to take to fall potlucks, family Thanksgiving dinners, classes, meetings, or work.  People will love you, just don't tell them they take almost no effort to make.
I love the orange color that it turns when you add the pumpkin!

Follow the recipe exactly.  The batter will be thick, but don't add eggs or oil.  They don't actually need it, and if you do your muffins will end up too wet.  I've tried this with Trader Joe's baking mix as well with limited results.  I know its bad for you and blah blah blah but it is just best with a Duncan Hines mix.  Add walnuts and top them with brown sugar for a crunch.

I also made mine mini, they're better for sharing.