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Month: October 2016

Pumpkin Pie Spice Biscotti

Pumpkin Pie Spice Biscotti

I’m so delighted that fall is here!  I couldn’t resist baking a batch of pumpkin pie spice biscotti this weekend, just to celebrate the start of October.  These cookies make the entire house smell like the holidays – the pumpkin pie spice is so fragrant.  I’m pretty generous with ginger in my spice blend and it comes through in a nice subtle way in these cookies. 

I’ve been thinking some about the pumpkin pie spice craze – I’ll admit that as soon as it started raining, I was in line at Starbucks for my first Pumpkin Pie Spice Latte for the year, which really, honestly, tastes nothing like pumpkin or spice.  I’ve since been sampling similar lattes at other coffee shops and have found a few favorites to get me through the season.  I’ve also thought a lot about pumpkin pie spice – I don’t know when it became de rigueur to DIY pumpkin pie spice.  I remember buying the premixed spice and having it around as a staple in the spice pantry.  It’s so simple to mix up the spices yourself though, so I’m happy about this particular cooking trend. 

And since this post is all about starting fall off with pumpkin, I recently read an interesting article that most canned pumpkin isn’t actually pumpkin at all, but is generally a blend of other winter squashes, like butternut squash because other winter squashes are less stringy than pumpkin and make a smoother puree.  This was a bit of a revelation for me: I’ve been making my own pumpkin puree for years now and every time I open up a roasted pie pumpkin, I’ve thought – this thing looks more like an orange spaghetti squash than pumpkin puree, so what am I doing wrong?  Then I put the thought aside, mash it up some, and throw it in the freezer to be used in things like these pumpkin pie spice biscotti or pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.   The stringiness isn’t noticeable when it’s cooked into a baked good or even when it’s blended into a smoothie, so I’ll keep on making my pumpkin puree with pumpkin. 

The bottom line here is that pumpkin and spice is a winning combination.  Enjoy these pumpkin pie spice biscotti with a cup of coffee (or a pumpkin spice latte) or a cup of tea and sit back and watch the leaves fall.

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Pumpkin Pie Spice Biscotti
Makes 2 dozen

½ cup pumpkin puree (recipe for DIY pumpkin puree here)
1 egg
4 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (see below to make your own)
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
To dip or drizzle:
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugar in a medium sized bowl.  Add the pumpkin puree and egg and mix.  In a smaller bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and combine until all the dry ingredients are mixed in. 

Turn the dough out onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Divide it into two sections and form each into a loaf.  Flatten each loaf out a bit on top. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. 

Remove the biscotti loafs from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.  Use a serrated edged knife to slice the loafs into ½ slices – you’ll be able to get about 12 cookies from each loaf.  Place the biscotti back on the baking sheet in a single layer.  As they will not rise anymore at this point, they don’t need space between them, so you can fit all the biscotti on one baking sheet.

Bake the sliced biscotti at 325 for 25 minutes or until they are brown and crispy looking.  I usually flip them over about half way through to ensure even baking on both sides. 

When the biscotti are baked, open the oven door and let the cookies cool in the oven for 15 minutes for a very crisp biscotti.  Pull them out of the oven and finish cooling on a cooling rack. 

When the biscotti are cooled, melt the chocolate chips (in two separate saucepans) and use them to drizzle to decorate.  You can also dip the cookies in chocolate and nuts or just in chocolate.  Let the cookies air dry and then store in an airtight container.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Pie Spice
3 tablespoons cinnamon
2 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
2 ½ teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons allspice
1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves

Mix all the spices together in an airtight container. 

DIY Pumpkin Puree the Easy Way

DIY Pumpkin Puree the Easy Way

My first experience with DIY pumpkin puree was probably inspired by Martha Stewart.  As a teenager, I used to watch Martha Stewart’s TV show with my mom when I was on summer break and then again during the winter holiday.  I think this may have been when I started getting interested in where my food actually came from.  The thought of using pumpkin for something other than carving it into a Jack-O-Lantern was really appealing, but I didn’t have a clue where to find a pie pumpkin.  The only pumpkins in the grocery store were the carving kind.

Fast forward to my early twenties: I was still intrigued by all things food related.  I had decided to be a vegetarian and wanted to find farm fresh vegetables.  I started going to the Cherry Creek Farmer’s Market on a semi-regular basis, where I first found edamame (they come in pods on a stick – this was absolutely marvelous and exotic to me), various varieties of kale and chard, freshly made pasta, and, once fall rolled around, pie pumpkins.  I dutifully dusted off my Martha Stewart Cookbook, wrestled the pumpkin open, pulled out the seeds, and roasted it.  Note that this was the mid-nineties and my access to cooking related resources was actual cookbooks (I had a huge collection, including one book that had all sorts of pumpkin recipes in it – it was something of a revelation that pumpkin had uses other than Thanksgiving pie). 

I kept on roasting pie pumpkins and other winter squash, like butternut squash, by dutifully cutting them open, pulling out the seeds and roasting.  I had other encounters with winter squash, including discovering the ubiquitous local pumpkin when I lived in the Marshall Islands.  Local pumpkin was really Kabocha squash, which I didn’t realize until I’d moved back to the US and joined a CSA.  Local pumpkin, or Kabocha squash makes the most heavenly curry, but I digress. 

All of this is to say that one day, in the not too distant past, after I had wrestled a pie pumpkin open to roast, I was browsing Pinterest and came across a recipe that has, frankly, changed my life.  Ok – not changed my life so much, but definitely made an emergency room visit from trying to cut a very tough winter squash in half much less likely.  Here’s the secret – when you need to roast a pumpkin or another winter squash to make a puree, just bake it like you would a baked potato.

That’s it – just put the squash in whole.  I’ve done this for years without incident, but if you are worried about the risk of pumpkin explosion in the oven, you can make a few stabs at the squash like you would a potato.  Bake it at 350 degrees until it’s easy to pierce with a knife.  Let it cool (it’s steamy and hot, so risky to open it too soon and not get a steam burn).  Cut it open, scoop out the seeds, scoop out the flesh and either puree it in a blender or mash it up with your hands or a potato masher. 

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I usually roast two pie pumpkins a season.  I freeze it in quart freezer bags in 1 cup serving sizes.  I can generally get around 6 cups of pumpkin from two small pie pumpkins. 

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If you are looking for a way to use up your pumpkin puree, check back in tomorrow when I will post a Pumpkin Pie Spice Biscotti that will rock your fall.  Enjoy!

Chicken Cordon Bleu for Two

Chicken Cordon Bleu for Two

My husband and I are a cooking couple – we both enjoy spending time in the kitchen and working on a new recipe, like this recipe for chicken cordon bleu for two.  Cordon bleu is a fun recipe – it’s a combination of meat stuffed with more meat and cheese.  Since I’m pretty avidly anti-ham (it’s just a weird meat to me – too prone to weird meaty bits sneaking in), we opted to make a variation with prosciutto and Swiss cheese.

This is a perfect serving size for two people, thus the chicken cordon bleu for two recipe title.  It’s a very sexy dish for date night – with melty cheese, salty prosciutto and a crisp Panko topping.  We served it with a roasted garlic sauce (because I love, love, love roasted garlic) and some tiny roasted cauliflower heads and some sautéed kale.  And then we curled up and serial watched Deep Space Nine – it’s just how exciting we are.

The key to keeping the Swiss cheese from an excessive melt out is to carefully cut a slit from the thick part of the chicken breast into the middle.  I’ve included a picture – and no, those are not my hands.  Clay took on the bulk of the prep for this dish.

 

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Chicken Cordon Bleu for Two
Serves 2

2 chicken breasts
4 pieces of prosciutto
4 slices of Swiss cheese
1 egg
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
1 head roasted garlic, garlic cloves squeezed out and mashed (optional)
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Drizzle the olive oil in the bottom of a baking pan.

Cut the Swiss cheese slices into 2 inch long strips.  Put the strips together into two stacks and wrap with two slices of prosciutto each. Set aside.

Combine the Panko bread crumbs, garlic powder, salt, and Italian seasonings in a shallow bowl.  Set aside.  Break the egg in a shallow bowl and whisk until it is fluffy.  Set aside.

Cut a slit into the middle of the chicken breasts (start in the thickest part and gently move the knife back and forth until there is enough space for the cheese and prosciutto).  Once there is a large enough slit, push the prosciutto wrapped cheese into the slit.  Dredge the stuffed chicken breasts in the egg and then in the Panko bread crumb mixture and place each in the baking oiled pan.  Drizzle any egg that is left over the chicken breasts and then sprinkle any of the leftover Panko bread crumb mixture over the chicken.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the chicken reaches a meat thermometer temperature of 165 degrees.

In the last 10 minutes of the chicken baking, start the sauce.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Whisk in the roasted garlic (if using) and then incorporate the flour a bit at a time.  Cook the flour/butter mixture for a minute.  Add the milk and continue to whisk until the sauce thickens.  Once the sauce is thickened, take the saucepan off the heat and add the parmesan cheese, whisking to incorporate.

Plate the stuffed chicken breasts and divide the sauce over the top.  Enjoy!

I’m pleased to have this recipe on the Saucy Saturdays Blog Hop linky party.  Please take a minute and check out the links to the hosts’ websites – these are some of my favorite blogs and Instagram feeds!

La Petit Chef
Mid-life Croissant
Take Two Tapas
The Flavor Blender

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