Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

The stockings are (almost) hung, our baking is wrapping up and we are preparing for Christmas morning.

Need a last minute gift idea? Click here for a recipe for my friend Camille's Jarred Gift Soup Mix. This soup is amazing, and it is a super cute last minute gift idea:


Need some ideas for Christmas morning breakfast? These can all be made the night before and just popped into the oven:

Baked Egg Sandwiches Casserole

(Easter, but good any day) Morning Gratin


Eggs in a Nest

One last thing before I check out for the Christmas Holiday...if you have any recipes, advice or other general wanderings you want to see discussed on SP&P in 2010, email me. I love new ideas and have a few posts in the work for some New Year ideas (Amy, I haven't forgotten about you!). Email me at sweetpeaeats@gmail.com.

Wishing you a Sweet, Merry Christmas-
SPC

Monday, December 21, 2009

Blizzards, Christmas and Clark

What do you get when you mix together an early Christmas celebration, 18 inches of snow and lots of good food? The Sweet Peas weekend.

For those of you who don't follow weather news, we were in DC for "Blizzard '09!"*

Besides being absolutely giddy about the snow, R and G also got to open their Christmas gifts on that side of the family and hang out with their cousins:


SPH and I also braved the winter mess to go meet Baby Clark, SPH's best friend's 6 day old newborn (pause for obligatory "ahhhh"):
It was a whirlwind of traveling and excitement and now we are home to face a whirlwind of Christmas and excitement.

But while we were visiting, we learned how to make Snow Cream, which G grew very fond of eating. Want to learn how to make your very own snow cream for next time you have a snow? Check out my post today on familyeducation.com.


Last but not least, I leave you with my new cookie decorating creation, my new favorite cookie love. It is a simple way to use leftover sugar cookie dough to make a Christmas-y cookie. Or, if you are like me, a way to get out of having to do too many cut-out cookies (I love the way they look, but sometimes, I just want an easy way out).

Use your favorite sugar cookie dough, but shape them into balls to make round cookies. Once cooled, ice on some white icing and sprinkle with crumbled candy canes. Mmmm:


These make for very tasty, very simple cookies for Christmas. And couldn't we all use a little bit of "simple" this week?

Merry Christmas All-
SPC

*Note to Jersey Baby-you can betcha that I just loved seeing Doug Hill reporting on the snow!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An Easy Gingerbread Fix

Over the weekend the Sweet Peas baked. A lot.

At one point R asked if we could do a gingerbread train, something he saw in a store the week prior. Undaunted, I said, "sure!" So I drew up some plans:


I will spare you the details except to write it is $*&@^# hard to create a three-dimensional gingerbread train. So after trying, and deciding my sanity was more important to me than succeeding in making a 3D gingerbread train, I pulled out the train cookie cutter and we made 2D gingerbread trains, thank you very much. R and G loved them, and I felt proud that I had not sacrificed my inner peace in an attempt to become Superbaker.

But perhaps you are not the baking type, yet want something gingerbread-y to eat. I can't blame you since I will take a gingerbread cut-out cookie over a sugar cookie any day of the week. Now you can have all the yummy gingerbread flavor in a fun dip.

I created this dip for apples, but you could easily dip pretzels, crackers or even cookies into it. It is so super easy, I promise you will find something to dip in it, even if it is just a spoon!

Enjoy!

Gingerbread Dip*

1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 teaspoon molasses (or alternatively, 1 tablespoon brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients. Dip, repeat as necessary.

*I call it dip, but one could also eat it in a bowl, using a spoon, and call it "Gingerbread Yogurt."

Life is Sweet-
SPC

Monday, December 14, 2009

Blogs and Sleepovers

R and G are very intrigued with why I blog. They've known for years that I do something with the computer, which relates to why I take pictures of almost anything we do or make in the kitchen. But the other day I came into our play room/office and found the boys:


R informed me that they were setting up their own blog, one for all their Lego creations. Not a bad idea, eh? Thank goodness that SPH is a computer whiz and has already created a log-in for R, that basically allows him to go to a handful of websites, and blocks all others.

This weekend we had R's first sleepover with a friend from school. I love being a "fly on the wall" to their conversations, which suddenly sound so much more grown-up and advanced. Thankfully the worst word I heard during the sleepover was "fart."

But all in all the sleepover went well and we actually got a decent amount of sleep. But the boys were up a little after 6am, which on a Saturday morning can be brutal. What's a mom to do? I got up with the boys and we made pancakes.

After a cup of strong tea and these "mom survived hosting her first sleepover" pancakes, and all was right in the world:

Basically, my foolproof homemade pancake recipe, with some miniature chocolate chips and diced cooked bacon mixed in to the batter. A little piece of heaven, drowned in a bath of maple syrup.

Have a great week All-
SPC

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Creamy White Bean Soup


This soup is a dream--in that I have been looking for years for a way to make a low fat creamy soup that doesn't taste low fat. My barometer on this experiment has been SPH's reaction. When he tasted this soup he said, "you did it!"

My secret weapon?


I've used evaporated milk for years, but mostly for sweet treats and such. But I recently started trying it in savory dishes to replace regular milk. It adds an extra layer of creaminess, and if you use the skim milk evaporated milk, it has no fat.

Best yet, because the soup recipe below is a good "base" to start, you can make it your own. I made the soup vegetarian and then sauteed up some serrano ham to sprinkle on top and steamed some spinach to mix into my bowl. I kept R and G's bowls plain and they gobbled it up.

Trust me, you want to try this easy, healthy, warms-you-right-up soup.

Creamy White Bean Soup

1 pound dried Great Northern Beans
8 cups water
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup white wine or water
1/2 cup flour
1 quart broth (you can use beef, chicken or vegetable)
1 - 12 oz can evaporated skim milk

Toppings/Add-ins: Ham, Bacon, Spinach, Peas, Broccoli, Bell Peppers, the list could go on...

Pour the beans and water into a large stock pot and pick out any unusual or funky looking beans (ones that are brown, or are "one of these beans are not like the other!" looking). Bring water to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, simmer until the beans are tender. Drain in a colander.

In the same stock pot, bring the olive oil to medium high heat and add the onion and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the onions are slightly translucent. Add the wine or water and scrape any good browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to low.

Add the flour and stir well. The mixture will be very thick. Slowly add the broth, about a cup at a time and stir vigorously to ensure the flour mixes with the broth. Once all the broth is added, continue stirring and increase the temperature to high. Stir occasionally until the mixture comes to a boil. Let boil for a minute and then reduce heat to simmer. Add the evaporated milk and stir well.

Keep warm on the stovetop, stirring occasionally until ready to serve. Top with anything you choose, or simply serve plain.

Serves 6

Stay warm All-
SPC

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lunchbox Reviews

Next year R will be attending school full day and need to pack a lunch. A few months ago a store opened up around the corner that sells bento boxes and other "green" lunch packing choices. I had had my eye on one type of box in particular, but then I stumbled across this website and my choice received only a 2 out of 5 lunchbox rating.

Not sure if a lunchbox purchase is in your future, but this website, Top Lunch Box Reviews could be helpful. It sort of reminds me of the book I used when buying new baby things, Baby Bargains. It breaks down each lunch box option and rates the pros and cons...

A friend of mine uses a box she bought her son on Lunchbots.com, but any personal thoughts on lunch boxes out there?

SPC

Monday, December 7, 2009

Holiday S'Mores

Finally! Look what we just woke up to see...

As if the snow wasn't enough, R and G are in full blown Christmas mode. We celebrated Christmas early with Grandma and Papa this weekend and if I had to break it down it was a Thomas the Train Christmas for G and a Star Wars/Legos Christmas for R.

This is the first year that R has written his own letter to Santa:

Translation: "Dear Santa. I want a Lego Space Police Kit. From R" We'll work on niceties and politeness next year.

As I mentioned in my last post we went to our town's tree lighting ceremony Friday night. Can you guess what R and G's favorite part was of the night?

Take a wild guess...



Our local fire department had about 4-5 fire pits for s'mores making, and the boys were all over making their own. I am still removing marshmallow from G's jacket, mittens and hat.

Nothing like a warm bowl of chili to warm us up before venturing out in the cold to see our town's holiday lights. Our meals for the week are a bit hazy because I am feeling a bit lazy. I'll try and must up some energy to go to the grocery later today...

'Til then, have a great Monday-
SPC

Saturday, December 5, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Last night...our town's tree light ceremony, complete with make-your-own s'mores and hot chocolate:
Today, time to get some good local foods and more at:
(If you live in Central Ohio, this is a terrific event to buy wonderful foods and locally made products)

Tonight, we open gifts with Grandma and Papa, who are visiting from Virginia.

It's starting to look a lot like Christmas, even if we have yet to see one. single. snow. flake.

What is up with that?

SPC

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pomegranate Braised Pork Shoulder

The Wall Street Journal recently did an article on foods that can help boost your immune system. A quick glance at the pictures of food that accompanied the print article showed oranges, squash and nuts, but then I read the list of highlighted foods and came across, "pork shoulder." Pork shoulder was included for its high level of zinc, a nutrient considered key in strengthening your immunity.

My entire family loves pork shoulder in our favorite Slow Cooker Carolina Pork BBQ recipe and for some yummy pork tacos. But thinking of pork shoulder as a "power food" is a new twist on an old favorite...and one that deserves a new recipe.

I took the idea of pork shoulder as a power food and then combined it with pomegranate juice and carrots, two other key foods in staying healthy and came up with this recipe. It is delicious, and just the thing for a chilly December dinner. It is special enough for company, and yet easy enough for a lazy day supper. Enjoy!

Pomegranate Braised Pork Shoulder


3 pound pork shoulder, bone in , cut into three pieces
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 onions, sliced
1/2 pound baby carrots, cut in half
3 ribs of celery, roughly chopped
6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 cup flour
1 small can tomato paste
1 cup 100% pomegranate juice
1 quart beef or chicken broth
2 teaspoons dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, mix the pork shoulder, 3 tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, being sure to coat the pork well.

Heat a large dutch oven or stock pot (that can go in the oven) over high heat. Once the pot is hot, add the olive oil and the pork, searing on each side for about 3-4 minutes. Remove the pork and set on a plate. Reduce heat on pot to medium.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic to the pot. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until the onion becomes a bit translucent. Add the flour and tomato paste and stir for a minute or until it is well incorporated (mixture will be stiff). Stirring constantly, add the pomegranate juice and broth until the mixture is fully combined. Lastly add the thyme and return the pork to the pot.

Push the pork into the pot to make sure it is at least 3/4 covered with liquid. Place the pot or dutch oven in your oven for 3 hours.

Salt and pepper to taste. Serve over Cauliflower Mash or mashed potatoes.

Serves 4-6.


SPC

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cyber Monday

Are you between stops on your cyber shopping day? Well, welcome and take a minute to relax and indulge.

My mom sent me this recipe ideas months ago, but as it languished in my "try" pile of recipes, it came to mind yesterday when I needed a quick chocolate fix. SPH called a spade a spade after I sheepishly said, "I need to test it before I posted the recipe." His reply? "I think you needed an excuse to eat chocolate."

The unique thing with this recipe is that it can be made, eaten and cleaned up in less than 10 minutes. I am not sure if that is a good thing or not, but depending on the day, this recipe could come in very handy.

Microwave Individual Chocolate Cake

1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
1/4 cup skim milk
2 tablespoons oil
a small splash of vanilla


Add dry ingredients to large microwave safe mug, and mix well. In a separate bowl mix the egg, milk, oil and vanilla, and the pour into the mug and mix well.

Microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes for a 1000 watt microwave, 4 1/2 minutes for a 700 watt microwave. Remove from the microwave and turn the mug over on a small plate.

Let cool and eat. While this chocolate cake is far from gourmet, it is really tasty and is even better eaten a la mode.

Serves 1, 2 if you are feeling generous.


So enjoy a small moment of chocolate between shopping and the all-too-common holiday madness.

SPC

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Talkin' Turkey

Hey All-

I gathered up some turkey thawing, cooking and hotline help information and posted it over at familyeducation.com today. Hope it helps if you have any nagging turkey questions!

SPC

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Whoopie Thanksgiving

If you ask G what he wants for Christmas, 9 times out of 10 his answer is "A Whoopie Cushion." I am not exactly sure how this item ascended to the top of his mental list (well, actually, he is in that anything-to-do-with-the-potty-is-hilarious stage, you know the 30 year stage that boys go through?) but when he recites that this is what he wants, people think it is hilarious, which just eggs him on to repeat the scenario next time.

So you can imagine the reaction when I was in the kitchen and the boys came sauntering in to see what I was whipping up and I replied, "Whoopie Pies." Severe hilarity ensued, which I have to admit, made me smile too.

These Whoopie Pies are a spin on the classic ones, which usually have soft chocolate "cookies" filled with a whipped cream in the middle. I don't usually replace chocolate when developing a recipe, but I made these for a new idea for Thanksgiving dessert. They are a Sweet Pea original recipe...I replaced the usual butter or oil with applesauce in the cookies and eschewed the usual butter and whipped cream for a cream cheese frosting. In the end, these are, in SPH's words, "fantastic!" and relatively light.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Orange Spice Cream

Cookies:
1-15 ounce can pumpkin puree
3 eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

Cream:
8 ounces reduced fat cream cheese
zest of one orange
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons orange juice
4-5 cups confectioners sugar

Make the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the pumpkin, eggs, and applesauce, until smooth. In a large bowl, mix the remaining dry ingredients (flour through the baking soda). Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly to make a smooth batter.

On a cookie sheet, drop little rounds of the batter (will be somewhat like the consistency of a very thick pancake batter) in 2 inch circles. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cookie is fully baked and the center is not jiggly.

Let cool.

In a large bowl, using a stand mixer, whip the cream cheese, orange zest, cinnamon and orange juice until well mixed. Add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, until the cream is spreadable and not too runny. Makes about 2 dozen pies.

SPC

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Brittle Me This

I am sitting here typing, window open, at the kitchen table, wondering how on earth a late-November day in Ohio could be anymore beautiful. Blue skies, bright sunshine, a few brilliant leaves still hanging on the trees, and bird chirping. Oh, and G is napping and R is at school. Life is good.

The added bonus to this afternoon is that I am nibbling, check that, devouring, this recipe. Don't have any pumpkin seeds laying around your kitchen? Use the traditional peanut for this recipe, or get wild and crazy and use cashews, pistachios (shelled first, please) or sunflower seeds.

Pumpkin Seed (or Peanut, etc) Brittle


1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (need a recipe to roast your seeds?)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon butter (or I used Earth Balance spread)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Combine the sugar and corn syrup in a glass pyrex and microwave for 1 minute on high. Stir, microwave for another minute on high.

Add the seeds or nuts, and microwave one additional minute on high. Stir. Add the salt, butter, and vanilla. Microwave one minute on high. Stir, repeat (see a pattern here?).

Add the baking soda and stir quickly. Pour onto a Silpat liner, waxed paper or a very well greased cookie sheet. Do not spread (you want the bubbles/slight form from the baking soda to stay intact and spread too much will flatten them), but rather tip the pan from side to side slightly to spread the mixture. Let cool, break into pieces.

If you want to expedite the cooling process, pop the tray in the freezer. Mine was cooled in about 20 minutes. Another 20 minutes later, and the brittle was almost gone.

Makes about 1 -1 1/2 cups broken brittle pieces.


(hint: This would make a very nice gift for Christmas...)


SPC

Monday, November 16, 2009

Roses, Ribs and the Such

What a weekend! My beloved Buckeyes are going to the Rose Bowl and I couldn't be happier. Sure, the National Championship would be nice, but I love me the Rose Bowl and all its traditions. So a little shout out to my Bucks:

video

The weather was gorgeous all weekend so we had our neighbors over and SPH smoked a few racks of ribs. Oh. my. goodness. My man can cook, but he is brilliant at the smoker. Well done, honey.






(about 10 seconds after taking this picture of our leftover ribs, I ate another one.)










This week finds me trying out several new recipes to share with you here and at familyeducation.com. Our meals this week--

A new Meatloaf recipe, Asparagus, Spaghetti Squash
Orange Chicken, Green Beans and Orzo
Oven Fried Orange Roughy, Smashy Peas and Grits
Italian Bean Soup with Artichokes

Oh, one last note: I haven't forgotten about sharing a recipe to use any extra pumpkin seeds you have on hand. I just need to tweak it...so if you actually still have seeds on hand, hold on to them a few more days!

Have a great week all-
SPC

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Another Great Slow Cooker Soup

I'm over at familyeducation.com posting about another great slow cooker soup. Perfect to come home to after a busy, busy day:

Actually, this soup would be perfect too after my morning...

I had an appointment today for G with a new pediatrician in our practice. He could have been a character sketch on SNL for "World's Worst Pediatrician." He actually told G (he's 2, remember!), "Dude, just relax" twice. He wrote out five different prescriptions for a runny nose. He lied to the nurse about how often has been treated for croup. If it hadn't been my kid, I would have been laughing at this doc. G actually said mid-appointment, out loud, "Mommy I want a different doctor!" Well said, G.

So, if you live in Columbus and have a pediatric practice you adore, please leave a comment. I have been mulling a change for months and today just sealed the deal.

SPC

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mom Withdrawal

I'm going through mom withdrawal. My mom was here for a good bit last week and this weekend while my dad was off on a man's trip with some family and friends. Life is especially good when my mom is here to help.

Mom probably logged a dozen or more hours of babysitting hours while here, affording SPH and I the opportunity to do more date nights in the last week than probably the preceding month. Oh, and don't think R and G don't like it when a grandparent visits:


While mom was visiting, I made this black bean soup in our slow cooker. It was really quite good and served as a good reminder that I really do need to add "immersion blender" to my Christmas list. (Side note: thanks to Rookie Cookie and Jersey Baby for their immersion blender recommendations) If you are like me and lack an immersion blender, don't fret, just simply plop a few cups of soup in a standard blender and give it a 'whirl.

One last thing before the recipe: this black bean soup sports a can of pureed pumpkin. Now don't go looking at the title of this blog and assume I have some unhealthy obsession with using pumpkin in my recipes. Au contraire. In researching recipes, I came across the idea of adding some pumpkin to give soup a little extra richness and body. It works beautifully in this recipe...taste for yourself!
Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup with Corn Bread Crumbles

1 pound dried black beans (or alternatively, 3 - 15 ounce cans of black beans, drained and rinsed)
1 - 15 ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilis, undrained
1 - 15 ounce can pureed pumpkin
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalepeno, seeded and minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper
hot pepper sauce to taste
Corn Muffins, crumbled
Cilantro, Cheddar Cheese and Sour Cream (optional toppings)

If using dried beans, pour them in a large stock pot, covered with water 3 inches above the beans. Bring to a boil and simmer for one hour or until soft. You may do this a day or two before making the soup.

Combine the beans and all remaining ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook on low 8-10 hours, high 4-5 hours.

Once ready to serve, puree a bit of the soup to make it thick. Crumble some corn bread on top and toppings , if using.

Serves 6-8 (and tastes even better if you save some for leftovers the next day)

SPC

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween Candy Problem Solved

(I am relinking this post since the original was somehow connected to a Japanese spammer...random, I know!)

Hope your Halloween weekend was a good one. We did our trick or treating early on Thursday night, and despite R and G being off-the-hook excited about our candy mission for the night, this was the best picture of them smiling together:
So, now what to do with all this candy:
I was brainstorming over the weekend, trying to figure out how to curb the candy overload. Last year, we did a "one or two pieces" a day quota and the candy lasted well into the New Year. So this year I put on my thinking cap and have come up with this idea...

...and it worked like a charm...

I told R and G that I needed to make a special dessert for our dinner Sunday night (true story). I explained that I was going to make a special cake and I needed some of their chocolate candy to make the (cheese)cake. They got really excited and started handing me their candy for the cake. This is all the chocolate R willingly gave up for the effort:

I used three snack size candy bars--a Kit Kat, Reese's Cup and Snickers Bar--for the filling of this cheesecake. The rest of the candy went into the "take your candy to work day" bag for SPH.

I used two more snack size Reese's Cups for the topping, and let the boys throw a couple M&Ms on top for good measure.

All in all, it was a very easy, very yummy way to rid our house of some candy without any protesting.

Halloween Candy Cheesecake

Crust:
3 cups Cheerios
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Filling:
3 - 8 oz light cream cheese, softened
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
gobs and gobs of candy (ok, only really 5 snack size chocolate bars, but you can tell your kids you need gobs)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, process the Cheerios and brown sugar until fine. Add the oil and vanilla, and process until fine and resembling cornmeal.

Press Cheerio mixture into the bottom and up 1/2 way on the sides of a springform pan (alternatively, you can use a pie pan). Bake for 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the cream cheese and add one egg at a time, scraping the sides between eggs to ensure good mixing. Add the sugar, vanilla and flour, and mix until fully incorporated.

Take 3 snack size candy bars (Kit Kat, Reese's Cup, Snickers, Heath Bar, etc work well) and crumble.

Increase oven temperature to 365 degrees. Pour half of the cream cheese mixture into the pan with the crust. Sprinkle with candy. Cover with the other half of the cream cheese mixture.

Bake for 35-38 minutes or until the middle of the cheesecake is no longer jiggly. Cool and let firm in a refrigerator 8 hours or overnight before serving.

When ready to serve, crumble 2 or 3 more snack size bars on top of the cheesecake.



Serves 12.

*An idea I thought of after I already had the cake in the oven was that you could do something fun and take a certain color M&M and place it inside the cake and see who gets the slice with that special color M&M. Maybe they could even win a prize. Like having to do the dishes. :)
Blogger: Sweet Peas and Pumpkins - Create Post
SPC

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Perfectly Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Our costumes are ready, I am about to go dig up the glow sticks I saved for tonight and the tea lights are about to go into our jack o'lanterns. Before I know it, the boys will be collecting gobs of candy and the sugar rushes will be about to begin.

For some unknown reason, our city (and most of Columbus) has opted to do trick or treating tonight instead of Saturday. God love the teachers that will have to contend with the sleep-deprived and sugar-hang over little ones tomorrow.

This past weekend we craved our pumpkins, and roasted the seeds. I haven't always had perfect luck with roasting seeds, but after many years of trying, I think we nailed it this year. And since this blog has the word "pumpkin" in its title, I just had to share...

Perfectly Roasted Pumpkin Seeds


Pumpkin Seeds (duh) --we used about 2 cups for this recipe
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Place the pumpkin seeds, with most of the pumpkin flesh removed, in a large bowl filled with water for about 15 minutes or so:
This allows much of the flesh to sink to the bottom while the seeds float on top, making it much, much easier to remove the remaining flesh.

Next, let the seeds dry on a clean towel for a good bit, preferably overnight to make sure the seeds are very dry (and will roast better):
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Place the seeds on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil and salt. Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, turning the seeds on the sheet after about 45 minutes to ensure even baking:
Remove from the oven once they are browned slightly:
Go ahead and enjoy--they are a healthy snack full of good antioxidants and other nutrients. If you can, save some because I have a recipe I am trying out this weekend using them, and I will post it if it passes muster.

Happy Halloween All!
SPC

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pizza Soup

This is soup weather. We've been enjoying at least one soup a week for the last month or so, and this week is no different. You see, our pre-trick-or-treating tradition is to fuel up on Chicken Fiesta Soup. The whole family loves it and I figure the beans, vegetables and lean protein provide the perfect foil to the candy and sugar overload that follows.

But a new soup contender for "favorite soup" has entered the Sweet Pea home. Again, in an attempt to use the gobs of tomatoes from our garden, I created a soup recipe I endearingly call "Pizza Soup." I could have called it Tomato Soup with Cheese Croutons, but my guess is that R and G wouldn't have been quite as excited about such a soup. Suffice it to say, if the word "pizza" is in the dinner menu title, they are excited.

Pizza Soup

4 cups roasted tomatoes (I used quite a bit from our garden, and the supplemented them with a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes)
5 cloves of garlic (if you are roasting your own tomatoes, throw the garlic in with them to roast too)
1 teaspoon dried basil (or 1-2 tablespoons fresh basil)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 - 15oz can chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 slices of french bread
sliced or shredded mozzarella cheese (about 1-2 cups)
optional: sliced pepperoni, olives, peppers

If roasting your own tomatoes, place them on a cookie sheet with a little bit of olive oil and roast at 425 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, or until they go from looking like this:

To this:


Pour the roasted tomatoes into a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, basil, oregano, black pepper and chicken broth and cook for about 4-5 minutes.

Pour the mixture into a food processor and puree, adding the olive oil as it mixes:

Taste to see if the soup needs any extra salt and pepper and season if need be.

Return the soup back to the sauce pan over low heat to keep warm.

Preheat your oven broiler. Place the french bread on a cookie sheet and top with cheese and olive, peppers and pepperoni, if using. Broil for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese is melted.


To serve, place soup in the bottom of the bowl and top with 1-2 pieces of bread.

(this picture was taken for its beauty--when I serve up the boys' helping of pizza soup, I serve it in a smaller bowl and the two pieces of bread cover the top. Oh, and I don't do the parsley for the boys either!)

Serves 4

Mmm, Mmm, Mmm Good!
SPC

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Back in the saddle

As I type R is at school and G is (not) napping. I feel loads better and am thanking the Lord that our trip down the H1N1/sick road was short.

While I was sick, these muffins were a lifesaver. Not wanting anything too big to eat, but needing to keep a little something in my tummy, they were the perfect snack. In fact, we just ran out of the last batch I made a week ago and I am thinking of whipping up some more. I have to work fast, because the secret ingredient in these muffins are a short lived garden item...

Green tomatoes.

Yes, these delicious muffins use all the unripened tomatoes I recently harvested from our garden tomato plants.

I could call them Green Tomato Muffins, but instead I call them...

Harvest Muffins

2 cups of pureed green tomatoes (do not drain)
3/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons molasses
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt

Puree the tomatoes in a food processor.


Measure out 2 cups worth of puree and add the other wet ingredients (applesauce through vanilla). Stir well.

In a large bowl, mix the remaining ingredients. Stir well. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and mix until just blended.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour batter into muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Makes 36 muffins.



Finally a way to use all those green tomatoes without frying them (although fried green tomatoes are super tasty!).

SPC

Monday, October 19, 2009

I Interrupt This Week's Regularly Scheduled Blog Post...

...because our home has been visited by the H1N1 virus. We're hanging in there, but it may be a day or two before I can post my next recipe...

'Til Then,
SPC

Monday, October 12, 2009

Harvest Time

This weekend we pulled the vegetables out of the garden. It had to be done. Our October has been below-average cold and later this week we should have some frost at night. Bummer. But I just had to share how huge our one tomato plant grew this summer. This is *one* plant:



We celebrated the harvest time with a Fall Festival at R's school Friday evening, and then just for good measure, went to our city's Fall Fest on Friday too. We are celebrating fall out the wazoo.

R and G learned how to make apple cider:

And what would fall be without a hayride?:

Hope you had a happy weekend too. Its a busy day here so I leave you with a little menu planning inspiration...our meals for the week:

Baked "Fried" Orange Roughy, "Fried" Green Tomatoes and Grits
Chili in the Slow Cooker
Baked Burritos
Stuffed Acorn Squash and Green Beans
Bacon Mac and Cheese

Have a great week All-
SPC