Archive for October, 2012

Harvest Time – Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Mmm - Farm Fresh!

Mmm – Farm Fresh Pumpkin Seeds!

Fall is absolutely my favorite season – between squash and other root veggies starting to come into season we also get to have the ‘warm’ tastes of pumpkin, cinnamon, baking, pumpkin-spice lattes, etc. It is just a wonderful season food-wise in my opinion! Last night we carved our pumpkins and had our annual homemade roasted pumpkin seeds! As you can see in the picture above our dog learned where the canned pumpkin we put in his food comes from, and boy did he really love pumpkin carving night!  Here is how you can roast your own pumpkin seeds and maybe we can inspire you with some flavors that we have enjoyed in the past.

Ingredients

Pumpkin seeds – fresh from inside the pumpkin!
Sea Salt
** Other Flavors (detailed below)

Directions

Pumpkin Seeds in our colander

As you start carving the pumpkin start preheating your oven to 300 F. To make it easier later on, as you carve your pumpkin and discard your seeds and the pumpkin guts, put your seeds into a colander and the rest of the guts in your garbage pile – easy way to get the seeds rinsed before roasting!

Rinse off your seeds trying to remove as much of the remaining guts as possible, if there is something left it just adds a bit more flavor! Toss your seeds in the salt and flavors you choose.

Roasted and ready to eat pumpkin seeds!

We usually make a few smaller batches of each of the flavors this way we can enjoy them all. Spread the seeds into a roasting pan or baking sheet. We personally use our Pampered Chef rectangle stoneware since it usually roasts the seeds perfectly!

Roast the seeds until they are brown and crunchy, which usually takes about 45 minutes depending on how many you have. You will want to turn the seeds a few times while you are roasting them so that they cook evenly.

Flavor Suggestions

As I mentioned before we have some seasonings we like to vary on our seeds to get a bit of variety. Here is a breakdown of our favorites:

Classic: Seeds & Sea Salt
Italian: Seeds with Garlic powder and a bit of rosemary
Cajun: Seeds with paprika and Cajun seasoning
Spicy: Seeds with cumin and red pepper
Taste of the Bay: Seeds with old bay seasoning
Fall Sweetness: Seeds with cinnamon
If you have any other flavor suggestions I would love to hear them so that I can try them out! Enjoy carving and snacking on your seeds everyone – Happy Halloween!

Salted & Ready to Roast

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A Taste of Italy – Simple Homemade Pizza

Originally hailing from just outside of NYC I can safely say that there is no quick meal tastier than a good slice of pizza. Back where I’m from you can buy pizza by the slice (usually under $3 for a slice and can of soda) and we call an entire pizza simply a ‘pie’. Yep, you can call up one of the dozen pizza parlors and order ‘a large pie with extra cheese’ to go and in 30 minutes or less you’ll have your pie all set! As much as I truly love living in Virginia we absolutely have a pizzeria shortage here – it is nearing an epidemic. Sure there are lots of Pizza Huts, Domino’s and the like, but there are very few (tasty) pizzerias that deliver the quality I’m used to from back home. On the nights that we feel we must have pizza, we have started to make our own. Ours tastes nothing like what we buy at a pizzeria back home, but it is tasty, quick, simple and has a wonderful homemade taste to it – something that is perfect for quiet evenings when you just want ‘a slice’.

Show me the Dough

There are a variety of dough available to use, in addition to making your own, truly homemade dough. We have made homemade pizza dough only once, and while it was definitely tasty, the pre-made ones available are just as easy and not too pricey. Here are our favorites:

Trader Joe’s – regular, whole wheat and garlic & herb. The regular and whole wheat varieties are about $1.29 each. The dough is refrigerated so the night I’m going to use it I will let it warm up a bit then toss it with a little bit of flour so I can stretch it out to the right size crust I’m looking for. The garlic and herb dough was tasty but we were just as happy with the regular and whole wheat flavors which are usually better stocked anyway.

Giant food store – also have a whole grain and regular variety available. Not all Giant stores carry these, but if they do they are in the refrigerator section near the cheeses. These are similar in price to Trader Joe’s and similar in taste. Between the two I wouldn’t say I have a preference.

Local Delis – Do you have an Italian deli nearby that also sells pizza? What about a local Italian bakery? While they may not outwardly advertise this if you do have one nearby you can ask if they sell pizza dough. Many will! It will be a bit pricier than the stores about but the taste is usually far superior and it tends to be very fresh. This is a great route to try if there is a local place you think may have it.

Getting Saucy

The dough is one of the cornerstones of a good pizza but the sauce is second in line to what turns a good pizza into a great pizza. At our home we make our own sauce in large batches that we can then divide out into smaller portions ideal for pizza night. In a pinch we have gone to jars of sauce to get us by on pizza night. Looking to a jar? Here are the ones we prefer:

Classico – many of the Classico sauces are delicious and their biggest perk (in my opinion) is the variety of flavors they offer. They have a Traditional Pizza Sauce which has a nice pizza flavor to it, it is simple and straightforward. The Tomato & Basil variety is also great on pizzas – you get a bit more of the basil flavor which adds some nice flavoring to an otherwise simple pizza. We have also used the Fire-Roasted Tomato and Garlic, Spicy Tomato and Pesto and Sweet Basil as well. They each add a bit of variety to the flavoring and can spice up a cheese pizza in a pinch!

To Top It All Off

Now that the base layers of your pizza are all set its time for the fun to begin. You can put almost anything (possibly anything) on a pizza so get creative and taste your wild side!

Cheese Please – You can get creative with your cheese too though most folks stick to Mozzarella. There are pre-shredded bags of mozzarella to use or our preference is to buy a ball of fresh mozzarella and shred it on the pizza for that extra fresh flavor.

Hawaiian Style – Use smaller slices of ham and a drained can of pineapple chunks (or rings) on top of cheese

Margherita Style – Cut off pieces of fresh basil and layer them with slices of tomatoes on top of cheese. If the season is right you can layer this with heirloom tomatoes for a really great tomato flavor

Salad Style – Instead of using sauce bake your pizza crust with just olive oil on it. Once its cooked layer it with shredded lettuce, small slices of tomato, cucumbers, oil, vinegar & oregano and black olives – YUM!

Others – Mushrooms, olives, grilled chicken, pepperoni, mixed cheeses, pesto instead of red sauce, spinach, squash, etc.

Again – pizza is a simple but creative weeknight meal. It’s the perfect way to start introducing kids to the kitchen and cooking and helps the entire family get involved in a really fun, relaxing meal. Do you have any other great pizza styles that you find to be delicious??

Rice Cooker Mac & Cheese – Easy Weeknight Dish!

Do weeknights full of homework, projects, dog training, sports and more make you feel like there is little, if any, time to make a nice home cooked meal? I know I feel that way so I jumped on the opportunity to try recipes that feature slow-cookers or any claim to be ready in 30 minutes or less. This one piqued my interested in the Washington Post a few weeks ago. Homemade mac & cheese, in a rice cooker, with only 3 steps – I honestly couldn’t wait to try out this seemingly no fuss recipe! It went really well, I made a bit of a tweak to what they listed based on their suggestions and it turned out really great!

Ingredients

– 8 oz pasta – use fuilli, farfalle, cavatappi, anything with a good shape.
– 2 – 2.5 cups no-salt (or low sodium) vegetable broth
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 – 2 cups broccoli florets, frozen peas or whatever other veggies you’d like to add
– 1 cup milk (we use 1 at our home% and I think whole or 2% would have been creamier)
– 1 tsp butter **Optional**
– 1 1/2 cups two cheese blend: Colby & Cheddar (you can use any 2 – 3 cheese blend such as cheddar, mozzarella & Monterrey Jack)

Directions

Combine the pasta, broth and salt in the rice cooker, close the lid and cook for a cycle, or about 15 minutes. You must stir it once or twice to ensure your pasta doesn’t scorch at the bottom. I neglected this initially and it scorched (my husband claimed it added more flavor…). At the end the broth should be completely absorbed.

While the pasta cooks, cook your veggies and get them ready to stir into the pasta. Keep in mind that the pasta will be hot so you may want your veggies a bit more al dente with the idea that they will continue to cook a little once added with the pasta.

Once the pasta is cooked, stir in the milk and butter (if you added butter), cheese and your veggie add-ins. Cook for another 10 minutes to help fully melt the cheese and ensure the milk is incorporated. Again – stir to avoid scorching.

This made a wonderful side-dish to pulled-chicken sliders and was a big hit! We had it for leftovers for a few days after. Next time around I may try using a different 3 cheese blend just to see how those taste, but as-is it was delicious, and very very simple!

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