Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Roasted Pumpkin Kabobs

I've gotta confess, we have never been big vegetable eaters at our house. But this year Kahuna outdid himself in the garden department. And nothing screams, "Eat me up!" louder than free food.
I never did get pictures of all the pumpkins in the garden. But there were at least ten or twelve of them, most of which are now decoratively scattered throughout the house, inside and out.

The pumpkins used to be in that green patch in the foreground, where the little orange flowers are now. In fact, a few little pumpkins are still valiantly trying to produce.
Do you see that flock of wild turkeys in the background? How cool is that? In all the years we've lived here I've never seen wild turkeys. Until a couple days ago. Right before Thanksgiving.
Don't tell me you wouldn't be thinking the same thing.

Anyway. Pumpkins. I was talking about pumpkins.
This recipe for roasted pumpkin kabobs came from an old-ish issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I used just half of a 3-pound pumpkin because, frankly, I didn't expect to like it.
I loved it. Tomorrow I'm going to cook up the second half. This recipe is definitely a keeper. Serve as a snack, a salad addition, or a side dish.

Roasted Pumpkin Kabobs
1 pie pumpkin, about 2 lb. (I used half of a 3-pounder; I have no idea what a "pie pumpkin" is, but mine was orange. I figured that oughta work. It did)
1/4 c. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (I used 2 t. of the already minced stuff you buy in the jar)
2 t. fresh sage (I used 2/3 t. dried sage because it's what I had)
2 t. finely shredded lemon peel (I used lime peel because it's what I had)
1 t. sea salt or 1/2 t. regular salt (I used sea salt)
1/4 t. ground black pepper
Spread a piece of foil on a baking sheet. Set aside.
With sharp knife, cut pumpkin in half. (This was harder to do than I thought.) Scoop out goop and seeds and save seeds to roast later, if desired. Throw out goop.
Peel pumpkin half with vegetable peeler. Cut into 1 1/2" - 2 " cubes. Thread onto metal skewers, and place on foil-lined baking sheet.
In measuring cup, mix together rest of ingredients. Brush half of oil mixture onto pumpkin kabobs, and bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes. Raise oven temperature to 450 degrees, brush kabobs with rest of oil mixture, and roast for 15 more minutes, until tender.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Homemade Food Gifts, Part Two

After a previous post on homemade food gifts, Susy asked if I had a recipe for some cookie mix-in-a-jar that looks good and makes good cookies. I think this Chocolatey Peanut Butter Cookie Mix, from the Gooseberry Patch Gift Mixes Cookbooklet #1, fills the bill nicely.

1 c. brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
3/4 c. cocoa
1 1/2 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
In wide-mouth, one quart jar, smush in the brown sugar. Then pour in the powdered sugar and pack down well. Next, add the layer of cocoa, pack down, and wipe the sides of the jar with a paper towel to remove any puffs of cocoa from the sides. In small bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt, then add that as your final layer. The whole thing should fit perfectly.
Add a gift tag with the following instructions:
Cream together 1/2 c. butter, 2 eggs, and 1/2 c. peanut butter. Stir in the dry mix. Feel free to use your hands :). Shape into one-inch balls. Place on greased (or parchment paper-lined) cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 - 15 minutes. Makes 30 - 36 cookies.

If you want to learn how to make these cute little crazy quilt jar lids to top off your gift, see here.
Have you tried any homemade food gifts the rest of us should know about? Feel free to leave a link in your comments.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Julia's Chocolate Cake

Well I'm not too thrilled at how my Julia Child chocolate cake turned out, the one that took me TWO DAYS TO MAKE.

Neither layer would unmold properly, even with the buttered wax paper which resolutely stayed stuck to the bottom of the pan while the cake was dislodged by a knife, two spatulas, and moi.

Good thing I'm adept at jigsaw puzzles, because I had plenty of little cake shapes to fit together, tangram-style, to make this square.

I just looked up tangram in the dictionary and realized I could have made a cat.
It had better taste good, is all I'm saying.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Homemade Marinated Dried Tomatoes

After my last post, I got a couple questions about how to make your own marinated dried tomatoes. They're simple to do, and give you such a great, flavor-filled reminder of homegrown tomatoes throughout the year.
First step is to dry the tomatoes. You can do this in the oven on low heat (200 degrees) on a foil-covered pan for anywhere from nine to ?maybe 24 hours? The length of time depends on how big and how juicy your tomatoes are. You want them to end up the texture of raisins, with all the moisture sucked out of them.

Here they are, getting there. The two in the upper right corner look about done.

If you're fortunate enough to have access to a dehydrator (big thanks to my friend Angie for lending me hers this summer), you can use that to do the drying. It still takes quite a while -- maybe 24 hours or even longer, depending again on the tomatoes' size and juiciness -- but if you set up the dehydrator on a deck or in the garage, you won't be heating up your house throughout August and September.

What you end up with are flat little discs of tomato goodness that will be way smaller than the slices you started with.

Once you're done snacking -- and you will want to snack on a few -- grab a jar. I like to use wide-mouth pints. The wider mouth makes it easier to get your hand in there, and I think the pint is just a nice size.

No offense, you quart jars, or cute little eensy jars.
Pack the tomato slices pretty tightly in the jar and cover completely with olive oil. No part of the tomato should stick out; the oil is what preserves them. In the picture above, I still need to top off the jar with another inch of oil before closing 'er up. Any little bits of tomato sticking out must be jabbed down until they're fully immersed (and staying) or else removed from the jar. If you leave any part of the tomato out of the oil, it will get moldy and you'll have to throw out the batch.
And we certainly don't want that.
These should keep just fine in your pantry throughout the winter. I like to keep a couple on the window ledge above my kitchen sink. They make me smile.
As for The Prudent Homemaker's question about how many homemade dried tomatoes to use for the cheese ball recipe, I just eyeballed it based on a store-bought jar of roasted peppers I had in my fridge -- I'd say I used maybe 12-15 of the marinated, dried slices.
And that's probably way more than you really wanted to know about marinated dried tomatoes. Have a nice day.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Homemade Food Gifts

Well, it's getting close to that time of year again -- the time when we all start to figure out what holiday gifts we want to give to friends, relatives, neighbors, teachers. I hate waiting until mid-December to think about this because then I end up lunging for overpriced items that I could easily make myself if I weren't in panic mode.

So . . . Christmas in October. It works for me.

This cheese ball made with sun-dried tomatoes (or in my case, dehydrator-dried tomatoes; see tomato glut here) is super simple to put together if you have a food processor. Just four ingredients, whirled together, then shaped in a ball and rolled in toasted chopped nuts. Takes just minutes. And for those who don't like to cook -- there's no cooking involved.

This recipe makes a lot -- three good sized cheese balls, or six 1/2-cup balls for small gifts. Feel free to divide it by three when you're first trying the recipe to see if you like it. No sense in having all those cheese balls lying around.

The recipe comes from this book, Christmas with Southern Living 1993, which contains Christmas decorating ideas, crafts, and recipes. For a while I was on quite a roll, buying Christmas crafts and recipe books year after year. I'm thinking at this point I probably have enough. But they are awfully fun, and full of inspiring pictures, even if all you have time to do is admire the inspiring pictures.

On to the recipe:


3 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened

1 7-oz jar oil-packed dried tomatoes, drained

1 clove garlic

2 t. dried basil

1/2 c. coarsely chopped pine nuts or almonds, toasted (I use pine nuts; put them in a skillet over medium heat for a few minutes until they start to turn brown)

Use knife blade in food processor bowl. Add first four ingredients and let the machine chop away. When tomatoes look to be pretty well diced (probably only 20 seconds or so), scrape the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate. (The recipe says to chill for three hours or more, but being the impatient cook that I am, I usually just proceed without chilling. It's a little sticky, but it still works.) Shape into three one-cup balls, or six 1/2-cup balls. Roll in the toasted nuts. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Serve with crackers.


NOTE: My food processor is really a mini-chopper, so if I'm making the whole recipe, it works best for me to do it in three batches. I've never tried it in a blender, but that might work, too.

I'd love to hear what food items you make for gifts. If you've posted about some of your favorites, feel free to leave a link in your comment. My stomach and I thank you in advance.

ANOTHER NOTE: For more ideas from Works-for-me-Wednesday, go here.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Mocha Truffle Cookies

These cookies are soft and chocolatey and studded with chocolate chips -- all you could ask for from a cookie. And now that the weather's turning cool, baking a batch might help keep your kitchen warm, too.

1/2 c. butter

1/2 c. chocolate chips

1 T. instant coffee crystals

2 c. flour

1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 t. baking powder

1/4 t. salt

3/4 c. sugar

3/4 c. packed brown sugar

2 eggs

2 t. vanilla

1 c. chocolate chips

In large saucepan, melt butter and 1/2 c. chocolate chips. Remove from heat and add coffee crystals. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

In separate bowl, mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Into chocolate/coffee mixture, stir in sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla.

Add flour mixture to chocolate/coffee mixture. Stir in the 1 c. chocolate chips. Drop dough by tablespoons onto cookie sheets (either greased or covered with parchment paper). Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Makes about 30 cookies.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Got too much leftover bread?

Me too.
Or at least I did have, until fellow bloggers graciously bailed me out this week with ideas for how to use it up.
Bread crumbs. Bread pudding. Croutons, soup bowls, French toast. Bruschetta. Poultry stuffing. Soaked in milk and added to meat loaf.
Wonderful suggestions, all.

Since my Tuscan bread, made with minimal salt and baked at high temperature, gave us roughly the same gustatory experience as chewing through a wooden windowsill, I decided my best option, other than shellacking it and using it to weigh down the picnic tablecloth, would be to try bread salad.
Panzanella is the official name of this recipe. It's a word I learned just yesterday thanks to both Kelly and Ingrid.
The process is easy and the finished product delicious. We paired it with canned peaches and

leftover chocolate/cherry cream puffs for dessert, and called it dinner. You could also add a nice sauteed piece of chicken or fish and maybe a green salad, too, if you want.

Full instructions for Panzanella can be found here, at Wild Yeast blog. You simply cube up the bread and set it aside to dry, make a quick vinaigrette out of kosher salt, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, chop up a couple of tomatoes, 1/4 of a red onion if you have one (I used yellow), fresh basil (I used dried), then toss it all together in a wooden salad bowl you've seasoned with garlic and let it sit for a half hour before eating.
And to the generous and helpful blogging community: Grazie.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Talk about your extra thick crust

Tuscan bread.

Can you say, "Crusty enough you could break a tooth on it?"

This begs to be recycled into something a little less dentally dangerous. Any ideas?