Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Roasted and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

The most popular of fall colors, orange, is also the color of one of the most festive fruits of the season; PUMPKIN! Did you know that pumpkins are native to North America, specifically Mexico? I did not, but that is pretty interesting since we are so used to seeing them at this time of the year. If you go to Europe for example, they may not know what you are talking about if you ask, its just not as popular as it is here in America.

Anyways...lets move on. Tonight was pumpkin carving night and I really hate waste, so keeping with the Halloween theme, of course I dug my hand into the bowl of guts and pulled out the seeds, making sure that none of the pumpkin was stuck to them. I then washed them in a colander and scooped them out onto some very dry towels. Make sure that the seeds aren't too wet when the go in the oven or they will steam, meh.

Can You Guess What This Is?
I tossed my seeds in a bowl with about 2 tsp of olive oil, or you can use any kind of oil you like and I liberally sprinkled some seasoned salt over the seeds. Again, you can use whatever you like. If you want something desserty, try sprinkling with cinnamon and sugar, or if you want something savory, try curry powder. The possibilities are endless!

I preheated my oven to 425F. While the oven is getting up to temperature, I spread the seeds very evenly onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, seriously, if you have never used that stuff GET IT NOW, it is pretty amazing. Place the cookie sheet in the oven and roast for 20 minutes, then stir, and roast another 10 minutes or so until they start getting a nice golden color, once this happens remove and enjoy!

If you are not carving pumpkins and just want the seeds, then visit my pumpkin post for some ideas and how to cook and store your little fall gem.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chinese Biryani...wait what?

Orange Chicken, Rice and Roast Pork Bun
So tonight I knew I wanted something Asian, but didn't know what. I found that I had some basmati rice in the cupboard and then had some Trader Joes Orange Chicken, which by the way is much easier than making from scratch. Anyway...this was a very easy and surprisingly fairly quick recipe for the rice, maybe an hour, and that includes boiling the rice and then frying it.

So first things first, wash the rice. Wash it you say? Yes, I said wash it. Put about a cup of rice in a mesh strainer and run some water over it and use your hand to whirl it around, you will see the cloudy water running out, wash for about a minute and transfer to a small pot. Fill the pot with water, if its still really cloudy, whirl the rice around again and dump off the water. The reason for all of this is you don't want mushy, clumpy fried rice. You want rice kernels that are separated from each other and that is what you will get with this method.

So the next thing you will need to find are vegetables. You can really put whatever you like in here. I had some napa cabbage hanging around, a ton of green beans from the garden and some onion, chopped it all up and voila. I also used an extra lean chinese sausage, but you can use any meat you want.

1 cup white rice (should magically transform into 2 cups when cooked)
1 egg
handful green beans, chopped
Biryani Before Sauce
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups chopped cabbage
1 extra lean chinese sausage, chopped
1-2 cloves chopped garlic
1 tsp ginger, freshly grated
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp sherry wine (you can probably skip the oyster and sherry, but increase the soy)
1 tbsp canola or olive oil
cooking spray

Start by mixing the soy sauce, oyster sauce garlic and ginger in a small bowl, set aside.

Next heat the oil in a very large pan or wok, I used a non stick paella pan for this, although it still stuck a little. When hot, add (meat first if using it) vegetables, starting with the beans and onions and end with the cabbage. Spread the vegetable mix around the perimeter of the pan and lightly spray the middle for the egg. Add the egg and scramble, add to the perimeter. Spray the middle again or even add a little more oil if you want and then add the rice. The temperature should be fairly high, I'd say medium to medium high, keep the rice moving around and gradually pull the vegetable mixture in from the sides, making sure nothing sticks to the pan.

Slowly pour the sauce mix over the rice and stir to coat evenly. The rice should still not stick and there should be plenty of sauce for the whole pan. The heat should still be fairly high as you want the water to evaporate from the rice, and eventually the rice will look just like fried rice yummm!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Especially Delicious Home Fries

This past weekend I spent on Bailey Island in Maine with some great friends. Part of the planning of this trip included food, who brings/makes what. Well, not only did we have great food, but the weather we had was pretty amazing, not to mention the views!

Mackerel Cove
The area of Bailey Island is called Mackerel Cove and the condo we stayed in can be rented out weekly during the warmer weather months by visiting Bailey Island Rentals and scrolling down to "Mackerel Cove Condo #4." Really, the views from this condo are amazing, and if you are looking for peace and relaxation (and some extra time for cooking and enjoying the views!) this is great.
This is what I woke up to, way too early (can you tell by the great quality?)
Back to the home fries...I had a bag of all purpose potatoes that desperately needed to be used, I had about 8 small to medium sized potatoes. Wash the skins, but do not peel, the skin is the best part when it comes to home fries! You will want to dice the potatoes into bite sized pieces, try to make the pretty close to the same size so that they cook evenly. My trick to making this is parboiling. A lot of people skip this step, and often times end up with not so lovely raw home fries, so DON'T SKIP THIS! Put all of the pieces in a pot of water, lightly salted, and bring to a boil. You do not want to over cook these or they will mash. Cook them for maybe 15 minutes, but keep checking for softness, you will need to drain and rinse with cold water before they reach the soft stage.

Next we have home fries spice. Its a secret, but I will share it with you. I use latin spice blend called Sazon and another called Adobo, the sazon adds a nice red color (and flavor!) and the Adobo adds another level of flavors.

Oh! Before I forget, I ALWAYS cook these in a cast iron skillet. A few reasons; the will not stick and the seasoned skillet creates a perfectly golden potato.

8 or so potatoes, washed and diced
1 large onion diced small
1/2 packet sazon
A couple shakes of Adobo and garlic powder
1 tbsp Olive oil
1-2 tbsp Butter

First, preheat the cast iron skillet. Get it nice and hot but not so hot that it starts to smoke. Add your oil and butter and when the butter has melted you can add the potatoes. Let them sit, don't try to stir them too often or you won't get that nice golden brown crust. You can, however, add the sazon and adobo, but hold off on the garlic for now.

Fry the fries for about 8-10 minutes and then add the onion. You can now use a spatula to flip over the potatoes and give the onion a chance to caramelize. You can also add the garlic powder little by little, you just don't want to add so much that it burns.

Now, if you don't want to use the Sazon or Adobo, just get some garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper. It's not exactly the same, but will still be delicious!

I usually cook these babies for up to 30 minutes, making sure that the potatoes and onions are fully cooked and everything is perfectly seasoned. I also make these first, and then keep them in the oven at about 325F, just check them to make sure that they don't burn.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Creamy Smack n Cheese

Smack you say? Yes, and here's why. This version of macaroni and cheese is so delicious that its like smack. Get it now? So this weekend I am going on a little vacation to Maine with some friends and I don't really want to be cooking on vacation so I made a few things to bring along. Also, it has taken me quite a bit of time to find a recipe for mac n cheese that is just...delicious!

Also, this may sound gross to some of you but I love Velveeta cheese. Yes. I do. Its not really even cheese, instead, it is a "cheese food". Click on the link to learn about what processed cheese really is and the legal implications surrounding it. Its actually really interesting!

So anyway...I bought a pasteurized cheese block, 2% fat which tastes and melts just the same as full fat. Also, you can find cheaper brands and most of them are good enough to do what you need them to do, so don't feel bad for buying a brand which costs less than Velveeta. You can probably also use other alternatives to the regular pasta. For example, I love to use Smart Taste pasta which has less calories and more fiber, just what we all need yay! Or if you need to be gluten free, use your favorite rice pasta or something.

And now finally onto the recipe!

Creamy Smack n Cheese:
1/4 cup butter or margarine, divided
1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk, I used 1%
1/2 lb. (8 oz.) Velveeta cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp onion powder
2 cups elbow macaroni, cooked
1/2 cup shredded extra sharp cheese
1/4 cup bread crumb or crushed ritz crackers (about 6)

Melt 3 Tbsp. butter in medium saucepan on medium heat. Whisk in flour; cook 2 min., stirring constantly (important not to burn!). Gradually stir in milk and bring to boil; cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Add cubed processed cheese, onion powder and mustard; cook until melted, keep stirring (you don't want the milk to burn). At this point, your sauce will begin to thicken even more, if its too thick, just add more milk. Stir in macaroni.

Pour the macaroni into a glass baking dish that has been lightly sprayed. Top with shredded cheese and bread crumb and bake at 350F for about 25 mins or until the top is nice and golden.

Yeah, thats it. This recipe is fairly easy. The hardest part is making sure that the sauce doesn't catch on the bottom of the pan. I also don't have any good photos right now, but hopefully I will when I am eating this, then I will add them to this entry.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Recipe for the Fall: Stuffed Squash...oh yyyuuuummm

Ok so it's not the prettiest but it tastes pretty!

Ok, so I had been in search of a good stuffed squash recipe. And by squash, I mean any kind of squash (even zucchini). My garden has blessed me with many Italian white squash, they are kind of like a cross between a thick zucchini and a ghost. I had two in the refrigerator since probably August and just got two more this week, so clearly I was in a hurry to find the best stuffed squash recipe I could. And I did!

First, lets revisit squash and pumpkins. You could use a small sugar pumpkin if that is what you have, or you can use an over grown zucchini or summer squash, but the original recipe I found uses an acorn squash. All of them are delicious and whatever you have on hand, go ahead and use it!

Again, tonight I used the italian thick white Italian zucchini. I have a special scooper that assists in scooping out the insides, because this is what you will have to do. You will want a nice cavity to really get all that meat stuffing on in there. If you use an acorn or other hard squash, you will need to halve it and cook it, cut side down, in the oven for at least 30 minutes. Now that I think of it, you could always half the zucchini too, and scoop out the middle.

Oh did I mention that this is a pretty easy recipe?


  • 3 acorn squash, halved and seeded
  • 1/2 cup water (for pre-cooking)

  • 1 pound lean ground beef (Or turkey, or chicken)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup Russian salad dressing
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • GLAZE:
  • 1/4 cup Russian salad dressing
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar

I know, its strange with the Russian dressing and all, but trust me, its GOOOOOD. I actually had to make my own and will post recipe at the end. So cook the squash first (375F), if using zucchini you can skip this part. Mix the filling ingredients together, mixture will be wet. Stuff each squash with the meat mixture and then add a little of the glaze on top (Skip the glazing if stuffing a whole zucchini). Baste every 20 minutes with the glaze until the meat and squash are fully cooked. I'd say probably another 45 minutes to an hour.

If you are unable to glaze, I made a pan gravy that was delightful. In a hot skillet, add about 1-2 tbsp olive oil and 1/4 cup of flour to make a roux. Pour the pan drippings into the skillet and whisk. Add some chicken stock and the remaining "Glaze" ingredients, bring to a simmer and allow the sauce to thicken and cool.

Russian Dressing: 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 cup ketchup, 1 tbsp horseradish, 1 tbsp grated onion. Mix and voila!