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!

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!

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!).


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,

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-

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Moo Shu Pork

I test, tweak and develop a lot of recipes, and about roughly half make the cut to be shared either here or at Some recipes I share because I think, "I bet someone would like this!" But other recipes I share thinking, "please make this, it is too good not to make!"

This recipe is too good not to make.* The fact that you use the slow cooker to make it only sweetens the deal.

My mom is my biggest fan and is always giving me ideas and recipes to try. Huge kudos to her for sharing a recipe for making Moo Shu Pork in the slow cooker. I took the recipe and kicked/jazzed it up a bit. This recipe is so yummy, so delicious and so healthful, it is going directly into our "make again" file.

The boys inhaled this dinner. They loved it. If I told them they were eating mushrooms, cabbage and carrots, I know they would have stopped in their tracks. But the beauty of Moo Shu is that everything becomes a yummy mess of goodness, and it is tricky to distinguish pork from mushrooms, especially for the young set.

R and I made a stop to our local Asian Market to pick up Moo Shu wrappers, but you can easily use tortillas. Traditionally you sort of half-wrap Moo Shu, but we rolled ours up all the way. "The better to hide the mushrooms with, my dear!"

Slow Cooker Moo Shu Pork

1 pound pork butt or shoulder, sliced very, very thin (I bought boneless pork "riblets" from the butcher, but chops or loin would work too)
1 - 16oz bag coleslaw mix
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 thinly sliced onion
1 pound of mushrooms, minced
1/2 cup hoison sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch

10 Moo Shu wrappers, or tortillas
1/4 cup hoison sauce for drizzling on top
several slices of green onion for topping
2 eggs, scrambled, to put into the Moo Shu wrappers

Place the pork in the freezer for about half an hour, if possible. This allows easier slicing of the pork.

Slice the pork in 1/8" slices. Set aside.

In the slow cooker, add the coleslaw mix, carrots, onion and mushrooms.

In a medium bowl, mix the remaining ingredients, the hoison sauce through the cornstarch. Add the pork and let marinate for 10-15 minutes. (The pork is so thin, it doesn't take long)

Add the pork and marinade to the slow cooker and toss to mix a bit.

Cook on HIGH for 4-5 hours, LOW for 8-9 hours.

If using eggs, scramble two eggs before serving. Place about 1/3 cup of the Moo Shu mixture on one end of each wrapper, and roll like a burrito/egg roll. Use a bit of hoison to help "seal" the wrap if necessary.

Seriously good-

*assuming you like Asian food, of course.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Big Weekend

What a weekend! SPH returned home late Friday from his week long trip to Dallas. Let me tell you, any weekend, no matter what happens, is sweet after flying solo for a week with little ones. I have such respect and awe for single parents.

Saturday we headed out to the country for a little:
and a little

We picked about G's weight in apples, and I realized that our eyes may have been bigger than my desire to peel all of the apples we now have in our kitchen.

Sunday was a big day! R and G's new baby cousin sweet baby boy I was born. Of 8 grandkids on this side of the family, we now have 7 boys! I can't wait to see this little pumpkin and give him some love...

And on the home front, R scored his first soccer goal at his game on Sunday afternoon! To celebrate, we cooked him up one of his favorites, fried okra. But instead of the traditional fried okra, we kicked it up new school style and fried them like this:

Very tasty, although I seem to recall the traditional fried okra tasting quite nice too.

A busy weekend, a busier week to come.

Our meals:
Grilled Steaks, Fried Okra, Roasted Tomatoes, Pistachio and Lemon Couscous
Tofu and Broccoli Stirfry with Brown Rice
Slow Cooker Moo Shu Pork (I can't *wait* to try this one...I'll share if it is yummy)
Indian Chicken Burgers and Roast Zucchini
Some sort of Soup...haven't decided yet!

Oh, and a couple of you emailed me for the Tandoori Chicken Slow Cooker recipe. Sadly, this recipe wasn't quite up to the SPC standard, so I will try, try again to seek out something a little tastier to share.

Have a great week all-

Friday, October 2, 2009

"I can't taste the difference!"

Coffee. The mom's lifeline. I never drank coffee before I had children, but now I have seen the light. There are certain days when a cup of Joe is the only hope for muddling through.

Have you seen the ads by a certain big coffeehouse about their new instant coffee? They are so sure you can't taste the difference, they are giving away a free cup of their traditional coffee this weekend if you come in and taste it against their new instant.

So with all the hype surrounding ready-to-brew coffee, I had the opportunity to taste some Nescafe this week. I have to tell you, before the samples arrived, I recalled my mom's favorite Sanka she used to drink when I was a child, and how my dad recoiled at the thought of drinking it.

Imagine my pleasant surprise that the Nescafe I tasted was quite good! Not only that, I loved being able to brew a single cup within 2 minutes flat, perfect for mornings when I need a quick jolt.

So I offer the opportunity to do the same: Leave me a comment by Sunday at 5pm and I will randomly choose one reader to send a free tasting pack. Think of it this way: you can do your own free taste test, without even having to leave the comfort of your own home!

Have a great weekend all-