Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tricks To Use Up Your (Halloween) Treats

When my kids were little it was hard to tell the Grandparents not to buy candy for the holidays.  I really didn’t want to have to constantly tell my kids no.  But Grandparents will be Grandparents and we were always trying to find ways to parcel out the candy so that it would last until the next holiday.  Here are a couple of ideas that seemed to work for us.

The Freezer

By taking smaller bags and dividing the candy up we could put them in the freezer and then we could control how much we had available at one time.  Out of sight, out of mind was one of the best ways to get the kids to maybe eat something a little more healthy before they went right for the candy.

Bake with them

Christmas is prime baking time, so why not take some of the Halloween candy and incorporate it into your Christmas goodies?  Brownies, cookies and cakes will be a little more special with some of the chopped candy added to them. Add M&Ms to your cookies instead of chocolate chips.  Add chopped Snicker bars or Twix to your brownies.   Have your kids pick out which candy they want to add to the baked goods, let them get creative.  Then freeze the cookies or brownies for later.  I’d stay away from candy corn but almost anything else can be used.

Smush Ins

On the day after Halloween (All Saints Day) my kids were always off from school, since they went to Catholic school.  So for a treat we would take some of our favorite Halloween candy and vanilla ice cream and create our own special treat.  By letting the ice cream soften a bit you can take a scoop or two and a handful of candy (chopped or not) and by taking a large spoon you can “smush” the candy into the ice cream.  Just think of Cold Stone at home.  This can be done with Easter candy too.  It’s fun for kids to get creative and make their own flavor.

Well that’s a few ideas for using up Halloween candy.  If you have any ways that you use up or store your leftover candy, please feel free to share.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pumpkin Fall Fest Recipe: Baking a Pie in the Pumpkin

It's time for another edition of Fall Fest and this week the topic is pumpkins.  Nothing says Fall like pumpkins. Whether they're made into a pie, soup, muffins or another family favorite dish, pumpkins are versatile and delicious.
Many years ago before Food Network, before Cooking Channel there were Saturday morning cooking shows on PBS. They featured fantastic cooks like Jacques Pepin and Julia Child.  But there was another cook that I think doesn't get enough credit -- Jeff Smith, also known as the Frugal Gourmet.  He wrote a number of cookbooks along with having his PBS show.  One in particular was called The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American.  Whether or not you agree that there is such a thing as "American" cuisine the recipes in this cookbook are interesting and not very challenging.  On one of his shows he cooked a pumpkin pie in the pumpkin.  How cool is that?!  Looked interesting and easier since there isn't a crust.  He attributed this dish to the Native Americans.  I guess that's possible.
Many years after seeing this (it stuck in the back of my head) I decided to try it. It didn't turn out.  I think it was because I didn't use a pie pumpkin. It's very important to use a pie pumpkin and not one that you would carve for a Jack O Lantern.

So here's the recipe, just in time for Fall baking.  Just think how spectacular it will be for you to put a whole pumpkin full of custard and spices on your Thanksgiving table.

The recipe: 
1 sugar pumpkin 5-7 pounds
2 cups heavy cream
6 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
2 Tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the top of the pumpkin and set it aside.
Scoop out all the seeds and innards. The seeds can be kept for roasting later.


Place the clean pumpkin on a baking sheet.
In a mixing bowl cream together the sugar and eggs.  <TIP> It's always best to use large eggs.  I only had mediums so I used 7 instead of 6. 

I did this step in order to have the sugar dissolved before pouring it into the pumpkin.

Add the rest of the ingredients except the butter to the mixing bowl. 

<TIP> Molasses can be very sticky. It might be a good idea to spray your measuring spoon with cooking spray to make it easier to pour in the molasses.  

Black Strap Molasses

Make sure all ingredients are well combined then pour the custard mixture into the pumpkin.

Top the custard with the butter pieces and place the top back on the pumpkin.  

<TIP> The original recipes said to bake it for 1 - 1 1/2 hours but I found that it took mine closer to 2 1/2 hours and my pumpkin was 5 pounds exactly.  Take the top off about half way and it will help the custard to set.  Don't cook the pumpkin more than about 2 1/2 hours or it will start to collapse and ooze.

Once the custard is set, let the whole pumpkin cool to room temperature before serving.

Excuse my well-loved baking sheet.  It does work though.

To eat this pie:
Remove the top from the pumpkin.  Take a large, long handled spoon and scoop out the custard getting some of the cooked pumpkin from the sides.  Serve it in a shallow bowl with or without whipped cream.

Granted this isn't your typical pumpkin pie.  It's less sweet and there's no crust.  It'll take some maneuvering with your spoon to get that perfect bite of custard and pumpkin, but it's delicious.

Doing something unusual for your Thanksgiving dinner?
Have a family tradition or recipe you'd like to share?
Or maybe an experiment that didn't quite work?

If you're looking for more pumpkin recipes look no further.  The links below from the other Fall Fest contributors might be just what you need!

What's Gaby Cooking: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars
The Cultural Dish:  Pumpkin Waffles
Cooking With Elise:  Pumpkin Chip Scones
And Love It Too:  Creamy Pumpkin Fruit Dip
CIA Dropout:    Pumpkin Panna Cotta With Gingerbread
Haute Apple Pie Girls: Pumpkin Bread Parfait
I Am Mommy:  Pumpkin Pancakes
Dishin and Dishes:  Maple Pumpkin Creme Brulee
Virtually Homemade:  Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins With Pumpkin Seed Streusel
Napa Farmhouse 1885:  Pumpkin Pizza
Daydreamer Desserts: Pumpkin Fattigman
FN Dish:  The Ultimate Pumpkin Soup
Cooking Channel:   Pumpkin Risotto
The Sensitive Epicure:  Pumpkin Whoopie Pies With Molasses Marshmallows
Daily*Dishin: Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake 
ZaikaZabardast:  Pumpkin Jalebi
Mooshu JennePumpkin Nutella Bread
Big Girls Small Kitchen: Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Loaf

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tummy Warming Corn Chowder

During my recent class at the CIA, one of the dishes that was made by one of the other teams was Corn Chowder.  After the issue we had with the harissa (way too much was added to the lamb meatballs my team made, making them almost too spicy to eat), I was really looking forward to the corn chowder.  Unfortunately this was also too spicy for me to eat and really enjoy.  So I decided to try my hand at it at home, and this time it had a nice spice to it (not too much) and great flavor.
So for this addition of Mamatoga Recipes I thought I would share this tummy warming chowder just in time for Halloween.  It can be made before the kids go out trick or treating and then warmed up when they are done.  Serve with some bread and it will make a filling dinner.  So filling the kids just might pass up all the treats.
The spice level can be adjusted.  You know what you and your family can tolerate as far as that goes.  But it's nice to have a little spice to balance out the creamy chowder.
This recipe calls for fresh corn cut from the cob so that you will have the "milk" from the cob that will help thicken the chowder.  I made mine with frozen corn and it worked just fine. This recipe will make 8 servings.  It can be served as a complete, hearty, tummy warming meal, can be a first course or a nice lunch with a sandwich.  But make no mistake this is a filling chowder.
To make the chowder this is what you'll need:
6 ears of corn, shucked or 4 cups of frozen corn kernels
1 cup heavy cream
2 slices of bacon, minced
1 1/4 cups minced onions
1 cup minced red pepper
1/2 cup minced celery
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
6 cups of chicken broth
3 cups of yellow or white potatoes, diced
3 cups chopped tomatoes, peeled and seeded (I used canned diced tomatoes, drained)
1- 4 ounce can green chilies, drained and chopped
1 cup grated Monterey Jack 
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Tabasco sauce to taste
1 cup corn tortilla strips, toasted, optional
2 Tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped

If using fresh corn, cut the kernels from the cob with a sharp knife, capturing as much of the liquid as possible.  Reserve 3/4 cup of the kernels for later.  If using frozen corn reserve 3/4 cup of the kernels and add the remainder to a food processor with the cream-- puree the corn and the cream together.  Set aside.
Cook the bacon in a soup pot over medium heat until crispy.  Add the onion, red pepper, celery and garlic.  Reduce the heat to low and cover.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender, about 10-12 minutes.  Add the broth, potatoes and tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer and cook, covered until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.  Skim any fat that may collect on the surface and discard.  

Add the pureed corn and cream and the reserved corn kernels, chilies and cheese.  Cook on low heat just until the corn is warmed, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and Tabasco to taste. Serve garnished with tortillas strips and cilantro.

That is the recipe provided by the CIA and found in the Culinary Institute Cookbook.  I've followed this recipe pretty much to the letter, after all they are the CIA and know cooking. But I have to say that I have made a couple of modifications.  When the vegetables are cooking, I season then and also add the chilies.  I also found that using the Tabasco can take away from the creamy, lusciousness of the chowder so for a little spice I use Pepper Jack cheese, not only in the chowder but also as a garnish.  If you'd like to follow the recipe verbatim, feel free.  If you want to make your own modifications, go ahead.

The version made at the CIA.

My version

Whichever you choose, this is a delicious, creamy, kid friendly chowder that is quick to make and reheats well.  Not sure if it will freeze just because it never lasts that long at my house.

NEXT WEEK:  Ever wonder what to do with all that Halloween candy?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fall Fest: Potato Canapés

Potatoes are one of my family’s favorite vegetables.  But I’m always looking for new ways to cook them. Since there are so many sporting events and parties this time of year I thought why not come up with a party bite using potatoes instead of bread or crackers.  So that’s what I did.  I call them potato canapés and they use all the classic flavors that you think of when you think of potatoes.

This would be great as a use up for leftovers and by no means are these the only ingredients that can be used to create these little bites.  This is really more of a method than a recipe.
Looking for more potato recipes.  Check out the links at the bottom for more recipes from other Fall Fest contributors.

To make the canapés:
You will need baking potatoes.  You should be able to get between 6-10 slices out of each potato depending on the size. Cut them about ½ inch thick.  

Preheat your oven to 425. 
Place the sliced potatoes on a cookie sheet.  You don’t need to oil them, but can sprinkle them lightly with salt. 

Place the potatoes in the oven for about 15-20 minutes.  They will be cooked through but not crispy.  If you prefer, you can cut them thinner and cook them until crispy. But that’s just a preference. 

  Once the potatoes are cooked they are ready to be topped.

Loaded Baked Potato Canapés

Top baked potato slices with cooked bacon and cheddar cheese.  Pop them back in the oven until the cheese melts.  Then top them with sour cream and green onions or chives.

Buffalo Chicken Potato Canapés:

Having chicken wings for the big game.  Take a few wings and use them to top your potato canapés.  Remove the meat from the bones and place on the cooked potato slice.  Then top with blue cheese.  Or you could take some leftover chicken toss it with butter and hot sauce and then top the potato slices.  Don't forget the blue cheese!

Pulled Pork Canapés:

I found this to be a good use up for leftover pulled or BBQ pork.  Top the cooked potato slices with warm pulled or BBQ pork and them add a small spoonful of coleslaw. Great combination.

Next time you're having a get together and want an unusual party bite, try potato canapes.  Your guests will say "Why didn't I think of that?"

Here are some more creative ways to use potatoes from the Fall Fest Contributors.  Why not try them all?

Taste With The Eyes: Poached Salmon, Lobster Mash, Lentil Gumbo “Gravy”
And Love It Too:  Twice Baked Potato - Paleo Style
What's Gaby Cooking: Smashed Potatoes
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Chorizo and Potato Tacos
Cooking Channel:  Cozy Up With In Season Potatoes
FN Dish:   Best Potato Casserole Recipes
Cooking With Elise:  The Irish Boxty
CIA Dropout: Potato and Leek Soup
The Sensitive Epicure:  Potatoes Anna With Fresh Thyme and Truffle Salt
Glory Foods:   Chicken Smashed Potatoes

Come back for more Fall Fest Recipes.
Next time it's all about Pumpkin! and I don't mean Jack O' Lanterns!!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mamatoga Monday Recipe -- Halloween Cake Pops

Here’s another fun food project that can be done with your kids.  Soon there will be lots of breaks from school and holiday vacations with lots of time to fill.  Get your kids in the kitchen and get creative.
By taking a cake mix and some candy melts you and your kids can create some amazing treats.  They’re called Cake Pops. 
Cake Pops are all the rage and with good reason.  They are pretty, fun and delicious.

Making cake pops takes some time but with simple ingredients your kids can make some pretty impressive looking desserts.  For older children this is the perfect rainy day or snowy day activity.  Need a quick and impressive dessert to take to a holiday party or would you like to supply the dessert for a birthday party, or shower? Cake pops could be just what you’re looking for.
I made mine for Halloween but they can be made for any occasion or holiday.  Not only can they be made with cake but also with cheesecake, brownies and even chocolate chip cookie dough.
To make cake pops this is what you’ll need:

1 cake mix, any flavor
1 can frosting or 1 can of sweetened 
condensed milk
lollipop sticks
candy melts
sprinkles, gel icing, confetti or other decorations
wax or parchment paper
Styrofoam block

I chose to use the sweetened condensed milk after reading many times that if you use frosting it make the cake pops overly sweet.  I also saw online that along with the frosting or condensed milk, you can add other flavors like peanut butter or nutella to add more flavor to the cake itself.
Here are the step by step instructions on making the basic cake pop.

1.  Bake the cake in a 13x9 pan according to the directions.  I used a cake mix with pudding in it but any cake mix, any flavor will do.  Be sure to use a regular sized cake mix (not a Jiffy) if you  want to a lot of cake pops.  The cake mix will make about 40-50 pops depending on the size of the pops themselves. 
2.  Let the cake cool completely.
3.  Break the cake up into a bowl.    
4.  Add the can of frosting OR ½ cup of condensed milk and combine completely. 
5.  Using a cookie scoop, scoop out the cake and place on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper or parchment.  With dry hands, roll the cake between your two hands until it forms a ball.

6. Place the balls on the covered cookie sheet and place them in the freezer for about 30 minutes. 

7.  While they’re chilling in the freezer, melt the candy melts in the microwave for 30 second intervals stirring in between.
8.  Remove the cake pops from the freezer.  Take a lollipop stick and dip it into the melted chocolate (candy melt) then insert in into the ball about half way.

This is the time to shape the pop into whatever shape you would like.  At the end of the post I have lined out the directions for each the mummy, the jack o lantern and the ghosts.

11. Now is the time to dip them into the melted candy.  If you are going to decorate them with sprinkles or other decorations, be sure to have them ready.    

Once the pops are dipped into the chocolate it will dry quickly and then the decorations won’t stick.  Be sure to have an adequate amount of chocolate to dip the pops in, sort of like dipping a caramel apple. A spoon or fork can be used to make sure they are completely covered.  

Let the access drip off the end.  Don’t worry if the coating isn’t completely smooth.  You’ll get better with practice.  Having the chocolate warm enough that it’s fluid will help keep the coating smooth.  The chocolate can be reheated to make sure that it’s loose to dip.

Once the pops are dipped stick them into a styrofoam block to dry.

To decorate:

Let your imagination run wild with the decorations.  I think that they look best, simply done.  Maybe a drizzle of different colored chocolate and maybe some sprinkles.  The pops don’t have to be round either.  I’ve even seen them in squares.

To make the mummies:
Mold the cake into an oval shape.  Dip it into white melted candy melts.  Put them into the Styrofoam block to dry.  Once they are dry take either a fork or a squeeze bottle and draw lines randomly around the cake pop to simulate the bandages on the mummy.  Add either gel icing for the eyes or use melted chocolate chips.

To make the jack o lanterns:
Form the cake into rounds.  Dip them into orange melted candy melts.  Place into the Styrofoam block to dry.  After they’re dry, draw the jack o lantern faces with either black gel icing or melted chocolate chips.  A green tic tac can be used as the stem.

To make the ghosts:
Shape the cake into ghost shapes, making a head at the top.  Dip them into white melted candy melts.  Let them dry in the Styrofoam block.  Decorate using either black gel icing or melted chocolate chips.

Here are some tips that might will make making cake pops more fun. 

 --To melt the chocolate (candy melts) use the microwave or over a double boiler.  If you use a double boiler be sure not to get any water in the chocolate.  Water is DEATH to chocolate.  It will seize and you'll have to throw it away.
--Experiment with different flavors of cake and with different shapes.  The key to cake pops is all in the decorating.  But they don't to be fancy.  
--If your cake pops feel sticky when you're trying to shape them, pop them back in the freezer for 20 minutes or so.  They won't freeze solid and won't stick to your hands.
--The cake pops will form condensation if they sit out too long at room temperature.  So they will be best if they are made 48 hours before you need them.  They can be wrapped in cellophane and kept in the refrigerator.
--Candy melts, lollipop sticks, styrofoam and icing gel can be bought at A.C. Moore, Michaels and even at Walmart.

I hope this gives you some inspiration and the confidence to give this a try.   

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cannelloni Stuffed with Ricotta, Spinach and Italian Sausage


Here's my latest post for Fall Fest hosted by FN Dish.  This time it's all about spinach.  Be sure to read all the way to the bottom for more delicious recipes by the other Fall Fest contributors.  They'll make a spinach lover out of you!

When I met my husband over 22 years ago, I had never gardened before.  I hadn't really cooked before.  I was lucky that he was the type of person who ate almost anything.  So I could experiment and since he was a wannabe farmer I learned to garden.  The first year we grew almost everything.  He had an old book called Back To Basics that was all about gardening, canning, preserving, almost everything you needed to know to be self-sufficient.  It became my Bible.
One Fall I grew broccoli, cauliflower (the kind that had to be blanched by tying up the leaves over the heads-another thing I learned from the book), and all kinds of greens.  So from then on I associated Fall with those kinds of veggies.  Especially greens like spinach.
I've never been a spinach fan.  My son and husband on the other hand love it.  I'm more of a meat and cheese person, so I thought, "why not come up with something that combines it all?"  Here's what I came up with: Cannelloni Stuffed with Ricotta, Spinach and Italian Sausage.
Cannelloni is a long pasta shell that is sold dry in the pasta aisle.  But if you'd like to make your own I've included the instructions and ingredients for that too.  The homemade ones are easier to stuff since they're basically a crepe. Traditionally cannelloni are covered with tomato sauce and cheese, but I thought I'd shake it up a little bit by covering mine with a cheesy bechamel sauce.

Here's what you'll need:

1 frozen package spinach, defrosted and drained
8 ounces of ricotta cheese
1 large garlic clove, grated or finely minced
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper to taste
2 sweet Italian sausage links
1/2 onion, chopped

Cannelloni Crepes:
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 egg beaten

Cheesy Bechamel Sauce:
2 tablespoons oil (if the sausage didn't have enough drippings)
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1/4 cup Parmesan and more for the top.

This recipe should make 7-8 cannelloni.
To make the filling:
1.  In a large skillet brown the sausage and onion together adding olive oil if needed.
2. In a large bowl combine ricotta, spinach, garlic, beaten egg and salt and pepper to taste.
3. Once the sausage is browned and the onions are cooked, set it aside to cool slightly.
4. Combine the sausage mixture and ricotta mixture until well combined.

To make the cannelloni
1. Combine the flour and salt.
2. Combine the egg and milk.
3. Pour the egg and milk into the flour and stir to combine.

In a small nonstick skillet pour a ladle full of the batter into the pan and swirl to coat.  Cook the crepe until it's set.  Flip and cook on the other side.

The crepes can be stacked onto a plate until all of them are cooked.  Fill each crepe with 2 tablespoons of filling. Roll them up and place them into an oblong baking dish.

To make the cheesy bechamel sauce
In the same pan that you cooked the sausage add enough olive oil to add up to 2 tablespoons.  To the oil add 2 tablespoons of flour and cook on medium heat for about a minute, just to cook out the raw flour taste.  Add the milk and cook until thick.  Add the parmesan, reserving some for the top.

Pour sauce over the cannelloni.  Bake at 425 degrees until bubbly and brown, about 10 minutes.

The result is a garlicky, cheesy dish that is loaded with sausage and spinach.

The dish could be made completely vegetarian by eliminating the sausage and adding some mushrooms.

That's my attempt at combining my favorites -- meat and cheese and my husband's and son's -- spinach.

Here are the links for more delicious recipes and ideas for using spinach.  Give these a try and let them know how it worked out for you.  I know I will!!

What's Gaby Cooking:  Spinach-Artichoke Cups
And Love It Too:  Bacon Infused Wilted Spinach
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Spinach-Pesto Tacos With Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
Virtually Homemade:   Spinach Pepita (Pumpkin Seed) Pesto
Cooking With Elise:  Spinach and Artichoke Fondue
Glory Foods:  Creamed Spinach
The Sensitive Epicure:  Catalan Spinach With Raisins, Pine Nuts and Bacon
CIA Dropout:   Spinach and Cheddar Frittata
FN Dish:  Stuffed Spinach Recipes

Have a favorite way to make spinach?  Have a recipe to share?
Next time FN Dish, Fall Fest will be all about potatoes, so be sure to stop by.

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