Pumpkin Mousse with Honeyed Pecans

Pumpkin Mousse With Honeyed Sugar Pecans

Fall has come to Maryland! And I have to tell you that Fall is one of my favorite seasons. Yes, I’m one of those people who enjoys cool/cold weather. If it’s nippy outside, then I’m happy! And there is a definite nip that has overcome my part of the world the past week or so. The leaves are starting to change, the nights are downright cool and most importantly one of my most favorite parts of fall has begun to appear…Pumpkins!

Earlier this week Alexis and I roasted a pumpkin. I love to do this because it gives you pumpkin to use now and some to use for later by freezing some of your bounty. Another reason I love to do this is roasted pumpkin seeds! Repeat after me fall is fun and pumpkin is fabulous! Have I mentioned how much I love pumpkin? Oh I have…Right!

For the past few weeks I’ve had a notion that it would be fun to make some pumpkin mousse. I’ve never made mousse before, but I figured it couldn’t be too hard and I was right, it wasn’t! This version is a little bit of pumpkin heaven, all with a nutty crunch. If you like pumpkin this is the mousse for you!

Pumpkin Mousse With Honeyed Sugar Pecans: Honeyed Sugar Pecans

What You’ll Need for the Honeyed Sugar Pecans:
2 cups of pecan halves
1/3 cup of honey
1/3 cup of natural brown sugar
Sea salt for sprinkling
Organic cane sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Place pecans in a glass bowl:

Pumpkin Mousse With Honeyed Sugar Pecans: Pecans

Pour honey over pecans and stir to coat:

Pumpkin Mousse With Honeyed Sugar Pecans: Coated with Honey

Next add the natural brown sugar and toss to coat:

Pumpkin Mousse With Honeyed Sugar Pecans: Ready to Put on the Pan

Place pecans on a baking sheet that is lined with a silicone baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt and organic cane sugar:

Pumpkin Mousse With Honeyed Sugar Pecans: Ready to Bake

Bake for 8-10 minutes until pecans darken slightly:

Pumpkin Mousse With Honeyed Sugar Pecans: Baked

Some of the sugar/honey may harden on the baking sheet as it cooks, but that’s ok.

Remove from oven and let sit until cooled. Place pecans in a an airtight container for storage. Use to top the pumpkin mousse below.

Notes: This method works for any raw nut.

Pumpkin Mousse With Honeyed Sugar Pecans: Ready for Pecans

What You’ll Need for the Pumpkin Mousse:
1 pint of heavy cream
1/3 cup of organic cane sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla
2 cups of mashed pumpkin (Note: I used pumpkin I roasted myself, but you can used canned pumpkin if you like.)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/3 cup of brown sugar

Pour heavy cream, organic cane sugar and vanilla into the bowl of a mixer. Beat on high until stiff peaks form:

Pumpkin Mousse With Honeyed Sugar Pecans: Whipped Cream

Set aside.

In a glass bowl stir together pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar until well mixed:

Pumpkin Mousse With Honeyed Sugar Pecans: Pumpkin Mixture

Place a dollop of the pumpkin mixture into the bowl with the whipped cream:

Pumpkin Mousse With Honeyed Sugar Pecans: Ready for 1st Fold

Fold the pumpkin into the whipped cream until incorporated:

Pumpkin Mousse With Honeyed Sugar Pecans: After 1st Fold

Repeat this procedure until all of the pumpkin mixture, is folded into the whipped cream:

Pumpkin Mousse With Honeyed Sugar Pecans: Pumpkin Mousse

To serve place a dollop of the pumpkin mousse in a dish and top with Honeyed Sugar Pecans:

Pumpkin Mousse With Honeyed Sugar Pecans: Ready to Serve

Notes: You could chop up the pecans before you sprinkle them on top. You could also top with crushed graham crackers, gingersnaps, warm maple syrup and/or whipped cream. Depending on how stiff you whip your cream you can keep this in the fridge for a day or two untopped.

Amusing Me

“Mom can I have one of of those new pomegranate things I tried the other day that aren’t pomegranates.”

“What?”I asked completely confused and trying to figure out what in the world she was talking about.

“You know that thing the other day that you sliced that looked liked a peach,” she told me in exasperation and rolling her eyes at me.

“You mean the nectarine?”

“Yes that!”

“That’s not a pomegranate, not even close!” I pointed out reasonably.

“I know that!” She told me in her best teenager trapped in a six year old body voice. “That’s why I said it wasn’t a pomegranate!”

Well I’m glad we cleared THAT up! 😉

Originally posted at Daffodil Lane.

Eggplant Fries with Creamy Onion Dip

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip

I love eggplant. I wasn’t always smitten with this lovely plant, but over time it is one of those things that has grown on me and then some! It’s amazing how tastes change over time.

There are many ways to prepare eggplant, but I have to say this version has to be my all time favorite! These “fries” are just perfect and I seriously think I’ve found a new addiction! If you want something a little different, and a little bit healthier than your average fry, then look no further…You’ve found exactly what you didn’t know you were looking for!

What You’ll Need:
1 eggplant, cut into strips
1 cup of plain bread crumbs
1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of finely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
Extra sea salt for sprinkling
Extra finely ground black pepper for sprinkling
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Cut the top and bottom off of your eggplant:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Top and Bottom

Cut the eggplant in half:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Halves

And then cut the halves in half:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Quarters

Next cut the eggplant quarters into slices roughly 1/4 of an inch thick:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Slices

Now cut the eggplants pieces into strips roughly the size of french fries:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Strips

Continue cutting strips until you run out of eggplant. Place all of the strips on a plate:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Eggplant Strips Ready to Dredge

Sprinkle strips with sea salt, finely ground black pepper and drizzle with olive oil:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Sea Salt, Pepper and Olive Oil

Toss around to coat. It’s easiest to just use your hands for this step.

Set aside for a few moments.

Now you are going to mix up your breading. In a shallow dish, such as a pie dish, stir together bread crumbs, Parmesan, 1 teaspoon each of sea salt, finely ground black pepper and oregano. Mix well.

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Breading

Roll sticks in breading mixture:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Ready to Dredge

Until coated on all sides and then place on a baking sheet that has been lined with a silicone baking sheet or parchment paper:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Ready to Bake

Make sure the “fries” are mostly not touching.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Baked

Serve immediately with Creamy Onion Dip (see below).

Notes: You can use this method with mushrooms, zucchini or yellow squash as well. You can store any left over breading in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a month. It’s good on chicken too.

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Creamy Onion Dip

What You’ll Need for the Creamy Onion Dip:
1/2 cup of light sour cream
1/4 cup of chopped dried onions
1/4 cup of boiling water
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder (Note: You can use garlic salt if you like, but if you do omit the sea salt below.)
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper

While the “fries” are baking make your dip.

Place dried onions in the bottom of a glass bowl:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Creamy Onion Dip: Dried Onions

Pour boiling water over the onions:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Creamy Onion Dip: Onions Soaking

Let sit until water is all or mostly absorbed by the onions.

This will take 1-3 minutes. Don’t worry if all of the water isn’t absorbed. A tablespoon or so at the bottom isn’t a big deal and actually helps the dip come together.

Stir in seasonings and sour cream and mix until completely incorporated. Chill or serve immediately.

Notes: If you don’t have, or can’t find dried onions, then you can caramelize 1/2 of a small onion and use that instead.

Creamy Corn and Cucumber Salad

Creamy Corn and Cucumber Salad

This one is another throw together what you’ve got and make the perfect meal! The flavors of this salad are mild, yet refreshing. The dill gives it just the right pop! By utilizing fresh, local ingredients, You’ve got a salad that can’t be beat!

What You’ll Need:
6-8 ears of corn, stripped from the ear (Note: You can use cooked or raw corn.)
1-2 large cucumbers, cut into strips and chopped
2/3 cup of fresh dill, chopped
1/2 cup of fresh parsley, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
Sea salt
Finely ground black pepper
1/2 cup of light sour cream or fat free Greek yogurt (Note: I’ve made it with either, but I prefer sour cream.)
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

Chop vegetables and herbs and toss together in a large glass bowl. Set aside.

In a separate glass bowl stir together sea salt, pepper, sour cream and vinegar until smooth. Pour mixture over the vegetable/herbs and toss to coat. Chill for up to 4 hours, or serve immediately.

Notes: You can add in shredded carrots, chopped scallions, zucchini, squash, etc. It’s all a matter of personal taste.

Better Bites: Vegetable Soup

Vegetable Soup with Basil

Soup is an easy, yet healthy and delicious way to get a balanced meal all in one bowl! This version pairs fresh ingredients, with little work, and yields a fabulous end result that not only is great the day you make it, but is better the next day and can even be frozen for later! That’s my kind of meal!

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What You’ll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
2-4 ears of corn, stripped from the cob 1 small red onion, chopped
2-3 carrots, sliced into rounds
2-3 yellow squash, cut in half and sliced
1-2 cups of green beans, chopped
3-4 ribs of celery, chopped
1 cup of mushrooms, chopped
Sea salt
Finely ground black pepper
1 quart of tomato sauce (Note: I used some I canned)
1 quart of diced tomatoes (Note: Again, I used ones I canned)
1 quart of water
Fresh basil, torn or cut into strips

In a large stock pot saute vegetables in a little extra virgin olive oil, with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper until onions are tender. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and water and stir to mix. Bring to a quick boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook covered for 30 minutes.

Remove cover and add basil:

Vegetable Soup with Basil

Cook for an additional 5 minutes uncovered or until basil is wilted. Serve immediately.

Notes: Any vegetables will work. Zucchini would be a nice addition, as would leeks. This soup, made as listed is vegan.

Chocolate Cake a la Alexis

Chocolate Cake à la Alexis

A few weeks ago Alexis wanted to make a chocolate cake. She told me what to put in the cake, and I figured out the right quantities. What we came up with was a very moist, very tender, really fabulous chocolate cake! Top it with your favorite frosting/icing and you’ve got the perfect treat!

What You’ll Need:
1 1/2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
2/3 cups of cocoa powder
1 cup or organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 tablespoon of baking powder
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1/3 cup of safflower oil
2 eggs
1 cup of buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl add flour, cocoa, sugar, sea salt and baking powder and stir until well mixed.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add vanilla, oil, eggs and buttermilk. Stir until all the ingredients are well incorporated.

Pour batter into an 8 X 8 inch dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake for 30-40 minutes until cake sticks done.

Cool and top with your favorite frosting or icing.

Notes: If you wanted to switch things up a bit you could use mint or almond extract instead of vanilla. Mini chocolate chips would be a fabulous addition too.

Smash Potatoes

Smash Potatoes

Potatoes are one of the quintessential side dishes that you often see on the menu. Most people like potatoes so they are a safe bet in most cases. Mashed, roasted, boiled, fried, the ways to make them are endless, yet perfect!

This version uses boiled new potatoes and takes them to a whole other level! Herbs, garlic and olive oil combine to make an interesting, yet delicious take on a classic side dish. Who says potatoes can’t have a little pizazz??

What You’ll Need:
1 pound of new potatoes, cooked to fork tender
Extra virgin olive oil
6-8 cloves of garlic, chopped
Fresh chives, chopped
Fresh Rosemary, chopped
Sea salt
Finely ground black pepper

In a large pot of water boil new potatoes with a little sea salt until fork tender. Drain potatoes and set aside:

Smash Potatoes: New Potatoes

Chop herbs and garlic and have them ready to go:

Smash Potatoes: Herbs and Garlic

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Place cooked new potatoes on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper:

Smash Potatoes: Ready to Smash

Using a heavy cup or glass smash the potatoes flat:

Smash Potatoes: Smashed

Drizzle with olive oil:

Smash Potatoes: Olive Oil

Add garlic:

Smash Potatoes: Garlic

Sprinkle with herbs, sea salt and pepper:

Smash Potatoes: Herbs

(Note: I actually forgot to add the salt until AFTER they baked, but this is where you should add it, before you put it in the oven.)

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown:

Smash Potatoes: Baked

Serve immediately.

Left overs also make the perfect addition to a big salad:

Smash Potatoes: Leftovers in a Salad

Notes: You can use any herbs you like. You could also add some grated Parmesan cheese if you liked.

Bow Tie Pasta Salad

Bow Tie Pasta Salad

I love pasta salads. They are so easy to throw together and you have something fabulous, yet delicious that is so easy to share! Pasta salads are just perfect for cook outs, picnics or even pot luck dinners.

This is the pasta salad that I ultimately sent to the shelter a few weeks back. It combines pasta, fresh vegetables, a few canned items and dried herbs to make the perfect all around dish. Easy and delicious…Now I like that!

What You’ll Need:
1 – 1 pound box of bow tie (farfalle) pasta, cooked according to package directions and cooled
1 – 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 – 3.8 ounce can of black olives, drained and sliced
1 cucumber, speared and chopped
1-2 raw ears of corn, stripped
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of finely ground black pepper
1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese

Cook bow tie pasta, drain and set aside to cool. (Note: If you want to speed up the cooling process you can run cool water over the pasta and it cools almost immediately.)

Bow Tie Pasta Salad: Bow Tie Pasta

In a large glass bowl toss together diced tomatoes, black olives, cucumber and corn until well mixed:

Bow Tie Pasta Salad: Vegetables

Next up is mixing your dressing. I like to use a canning jar and shake it all together, but you can whisk it in a bowl if you like.

Add olive oil, vinegar, oregano, basil, thyme, sea salt, pepper and Parmesan to a glass jar and place the lid on tightly. Shake until ingredients are well mixed:

Bow Tie Pasta Salad: Dressing

Add cooled bow tie pasta and dressing mix to the bowl with the vegetables and toss to coat:

Bow Tie Pasta Salad

Chill for at least 2 hours to overnight and then serve.

Notes: You could add chopped onion and or bell pepper. Since this doesn’t use fresh tomatoes you don’t have to worry as much about the vinegar breaking down the tomatoes. I would still eat it within a day or two or making it though.

Labor Day Signals the Last Hurrah of Summer

Canning Tomatoes 2009

Labor Day signals the last big hurrah of the summer season. With summer winding down, the ready availability of fresh, local produce is also starting to come to end. But fear not, September and October still provide many opportunities to not only enjoy the last of the season, but also prolong it for use during the winter.

There are several different methods to preserve food to use during the winter. Canning, freezing and drying come immediately to mind, because I’ve been doing a little of all three over the past couple of weeks. I’ve been canning tomatoes and salsa, drying herbs and freezing squash, zucchini, okra and green beans. Today I’m going to talk a little bit about canning.

Canning is one of those old time arts that is seeing a bit of a comeback over the past few years as people try to eat more healthily and locally. Canning scares some people though, because if it is not done properly there can be some issues. Don’t let that keep you from trying it however! The process of canning, while a bit time consuming and yes maybe even a little messy, really is quite easy, and the rewards continue well after the growing season is over.

Canning has always been a part of my life. I remember as child my mother and grandmother canning foods. I also recall lovely, hearty soups and chili through out the winter, made particularly with the tomatoes that had been canned the summer before. Nothing compares to home canned tomatoes, just like nothing compares to a big, juicy, vine ripened tomato.

There are two main methods of canning, pressure canning or canning in a water bath. If you’ve never canned before I recommend starting at the National Center for Home Food Preservation. They have a wealth of information on their website alone, not to mention their various publications to get your started. My mom got me one of their guides last year and the information (and recipes) in the book are amazing!

For my first round of canning I did mostly diced tomatoes. I started out with 40 pounds of tomatoes that we acquired from our CSA and ended up with 17 jars of canned tomatoes. Three of those jars were crushed, two were whole and the remainder were diced. I like to use these in soups and chili.

The next day I headed over to our local orchard and had decided to get 4 or 5 big tomatoes to make a small batch of salsa, not for canning, but for immediate use. When I got there though I could get the bundle of 5 tomatoes for one price or for $4 more I could get 28 pounds. I went with the 28 pounds! With this bunch I made a small batch of salsa plus ended up with 8 1/2 quarts of tomato sauce.

Tomatoes aren’t the only thing you can can either. My also mom cans green beans. You can can everything from potatoes to squash to pickles to fruit jams. The book I have even has recipes and ideas for canning soups, meats, shellfish, the list goes on and on. The key is canning it while it’s fresh to enjoy when winter rolls around and the choices at your local market aren’t as fresh, local, or as appealing.

So I’m curious…Who out there cans? How about freezing or drying? Leave me a comment (and or recipe) below! I love hearing what other people are doing with their summer harvests!