Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Hope you all have a fantastic, spooky & safe Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Harvest Pumpkin Soup

When I made pumpkin purée last week, this was one of my intended uses for it. There are loads of recipes for pumpkin soup out there. But, I was drawn to this one in particular because it calls for homemade purée {which, I had plenty of}, and because it uses the inside of the pumpkin {the seeds & fibers} to make your own "pumpkin stock". I love that idea.
I reserved the seeds & fibers from my LI cheese pumpkin for the stock.
If you've never had pumpkin tastes very similar to a creamed butternut squash soup. This soup also uses turnips, potatoes & parsnips...which, add flavor, but also help thicken the soup. It requires a bit more effort, making the homemade stock & all...but, I think it was worth it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall Bruschetta

I recently discovered a great local website about food, called CT Bites. It's been around for awhile, but somehow it took me way too long to find it. Now that I have, I've been checking it out daily...finding tons of tips & great food finds in my area...Fairfield County, CT. Recently, they had a post with some recipes from Nicole Straight, a chef, who runs cooking classes around these parts.
One of the recipes was for this Fall Bruschetta, which I immediately knew I wanted to try. I ended up making it for some friends who came by after our Pumpkin Picking afternoon last week. I especially loved that everything could be made ahead of time...something that has become a requirement in my super busy weekend schedule...which, sometimes includes jamming 4-6 hockey games into 2 days.
I adapted a couple of things...mainly, just adding measurements to some of the ingredients. I also added some ricotta cheese as a base to the bruschetta, partly to make it a bit more hardy...but, also because I thought it would taste really good with it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pumpkin Purée

Even though this recipe is super basic, with pumpkin season in full swing, I thought I would share it.
I bought a big Long Island Cheese Pumpkin when we went apple picking last week. I had heard that they were great to cook with & had been wanting to get one. I'm so glad I did!
Last year, I used sugar pumpkins {a.k.a. pie pumpkins} for baking. But, after cooking up the cheese pumpkin, I have concluded that it's my new favorite.
This variety of pumpkin is actually from the moschata squash family...also home to the butternut squash {you can see they share the same tan skin color}. It's native to Long Island {actually, all of the Northeastern U.S.} & Puerto Rico...hence, that part of the name. The "cheese" part comes from it's short, wide shape which resembles a wheel of cheddar cheese. There are many varieties of cheese pumpkins out there...the Long Island variety is just one of them.
Once prized as the best pumpkins to use for making pumpkin pie filling, they fell out of fashion, due to their odd shape, which made conveyor belt travel difficult. But, nowadays, they have enjoyed a resurgence & are considered an "heirloom" pumpkin. Once you cut one open you can see why they are so prized. They have an amazing bright orange flesh, which is very dense & not at all stringy, like a typical Jack-o-Lantern pumpkin is. Because of their unique texture, the purée you get from them is a smooth as velvet. I was so wishing I had a baby around to feed some to!
They also have a higher sugar & nutrient content than most pumpkins...and, of course, the bright orange color means they're loaded with beta-carotene.
So, now that I've blabbed about the history of this pumpkin, I'll show you what I did with it...and, there will be lots more to come! I hope to use this purée in pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie & more.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Some Things I Just Love...

Oh, man. I had so many things bookmarked to share here for Halloween. Lesson learned that I should never wait this long into the season, because things sell out so fast!
Have I mentioned that I love Halloween? I do. I think it might be my favorite holiday. Here's a selection of some things I love for this October 31st.
a. A fun & festive Trick or Treat banner. b. Handmade treat buckets. Love these!! c. Handmade, scary chalkboard centerpieces. d. Check out these handmade ceramic tombstones...along with all the other great stuff available from this artist. e. I'm obsessed with vintage chenille Halloween ornaments. Martha shows you how to make your own here. f. These Halloween glittered candles are great because they can be used year after year.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pumpkin Picking 2010

Another great year at Warrup's Farm, in Redding, CT. We love that place! This was our 4th year going & it was by far the busiest we've ever seen it. Although, in comparison to some other places around Fairfield County, pretty low-key.
We went with friends...some that come every year with us & some new to the place. We also had my brother-in-law & my two nephews with us this year. It was our biggest bunch yet & the kids all had a blast.
Warrup's has other things to offer besides pumpkins too! They have fields of beautiful, fresh produce & flowers. You can grab a pair of scissors from the little hut there, go pick what you want & pay for it by the pound. Most of the vegetables are done for the season...but, they still had cold weather crops, like lettuce, parsley, squash, peppers & green tomatoes.
Previous years Pumpkin Picking adventures can be seen here & here. I love looking at them & seeing how much all the kids have grown. Warrup's hasn't changed a bit though!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Beef, Mushroom & Snap Pea Stir-Fry

I love stir-fries. They are generally easy to make, quick-cooking & healthy. In the past, I've made chicken stir-fries, this delicious spicy tofu one, veggies only varieties...but, steak? Never made one.
Maybe because I think of them as being healthy...a lot of the time, diet worthy. Somehow adding red meat to the mix seems counter productive. But, I live in a home with three boys...and, my boys love steak.
So, when I saw this recipe in the October issue of Bon Appétit, I thought I'd give it a try. It looked so good & I knew my family would love it.
The original recipe didn't really need any tweaking, but I did change a few things to suit my taste. It called for using shiitake mushrooms, which I love. But, I decided to add in some portabellas too, because I love the combination of steak & portabella mushrooms. I also substituted sugar snap peas for snow peas...I'm not the biggest snow pea fan.
While making a stir-fry is quick in the pan, it usually requires a bit of effort in the prep department. This one is no different. But, once you get everything washed, peeled & chopped, the actually cooking part is super quick.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Three Lily Soup

A very long time ago, I worked next door to a gourmet food shop in Darien, CT, called the Good Food Store. Those of you from these parts will remember it, as it was quite popular. They had the best soups & I often bought my lunch from them. I remember one day seeing "three lily soup" on the menu & wondering what on earth it was. The salesperson explained to me that it was an onion soup, made with shallots & garlic...all vegetables from the lily family. I had to try it & remember that it was delicious.
Since then, I have had that soup in the back of my mind...thinking someday I would find a recipe for it. I had looked several times, on the internet, but nothing. Then, recently, I tried looking for Four Lily Soup & found it! I discovered that Gourmet magazine has published more than one variation over the years...nothing that's published officially online. But, I found a few different methods on message boards & such.
So, I took what I read about them & came up with my own version. The names vary as well...anything from Three, Four, or Five Lily, depending on what's used. I used red onion, sweet onion, shallots & garlic. But, leeks, or even chives, are also options.
I also added a bit of potato, to thicken the soup up a bit...also, to mellow out the flavors.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Save the Children/Frigidaire Event

Yesterday, my kids & I spent the afternoon in NYC, where we were lucky enough to be part of a great event benefiting Save the Children. The event was sponsored by Frigidaire, along with their ambassador for the "Make Time for Change" campaign, actress, Jennifer Garner. Their efforts raise funds for Save the Children's CHANGE program {Creating Healthy, Active & Nurturing Growing-up Environments}.
As of yesterday, when you visit & set a place at the virtual kids' table, Frigidaire will donate $1 to support Save the Children's work helping children in need, within the US, as part of their $500,000 commitment to this worthy cause.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Salsa Verde Cruda

We usually have Taco Night once a week in our house. Sometimes, it's Taco Tuesday...sometimes, it's Taco Whatever Day. This past week, I decided to make some salsa verde. Just to change things up a bit. Plus, I am "chicken sitting" for my mother & have a plethora of fresh from a chicken eggs. I wanted leftovers for some egg breakfasts this weekend. I love salsa with eggs.
Most recipes out there roast the tomatillos, and sometimes the chiles, beforehand. But, this one is a cruda, or raw version. I love that it's quick & no-fuss. It took about 10 minutes to throw together & still had loads of flavor.