Thursday, October 29, 2009

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

...and the story of the pumpkin that they came from!

I got myself a pumpkin

Gutted and carved said pumpkin

Bam Bam was a big helper...

Now the pumpkin is a freaked out Jack-o-Lantern!

Now, what to do with all those seeds?

I tossed them with 3 tablespoons of melted butter, some sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves, powdered ginger, nutmeg, chili powder, and cayenne. Baked them on a cookie sheet at 300 degrees for about an hour (stir every now and then).  And..

Ta da! Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Daily Life Lately

I haven't been doing a lot of extravagant cooking lately. Honestly, I've been working all the time and haven't had the time or motivation. I am also desperately in need of a grocery shopping trip, but again, have been putting it off. So, I thought I'd post a couple of pictures of my day-to-day eats that I haven't (until now) felt were worthy of a mention.

  This is the kind of salad I like to make for lunch on work days. I'll season a chicken breast with whatever strikes me (this particular breast has dried tarragon, salt, pepper, and lemon juice) and cook it in my grill pan. I'll make a salad with whatever I have on hand.  This salad has arugula, cucumber, tomato, carrot, black olives, cheddar, croutons, and hard-boiled egg. I threw together a dressing with olive oil, tarragon vinegar, dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper. It's healthy, and the chicken keeps me full all night at work.

I made this orzo tonight.  I'm really at the point where I have no groceries whatsoever, so I had to get creative. I was craving some veggies, so I steamed some broccoli that I had laying around in the fridge.  I added it into the cooked orzo with some crumbled bacon, halved grape tomatoes, and some arugula that needed to be used.  Splash of chicken stock, white wine, and fresh Parmesan.  The heat of the pasta wilted the arugula and tomatoes, and even though it was nothing spectacular, it was pretty good. I felt like I got some much-needed veggies as well. 

Not too much else is going on in my daily life right now. I did get my acceptance letter to the Trident Tech culinary program this week.  Even though I wasn't worried about whether or not I would get in, I still felt proud of myself.  I also completed my FAFSA this week, all by myself.  Now, I just have to do a bunch of paperwork to prove myself as an in-state student.  Go to orientation and get all registered. I'm pretty excited about going back to school, and will keep updates posted :)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies

A classic combo

Recently, I felt like baking something without having to go to the grocery store for ingredients.  I had two half-full bags of chocolate chips in the fridge that I decided I would turn into cookies. One bag was your standard Nestlé semi-sweet morsels, and the other was Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips, which are noticeably bigger than your standard chips.  I thought they might be nice used together in a cookie.  A traditionalist when it comes to chocolate chip cookies, I used the classic (easy!) recipe on the back of the Nestlé bag.  And so, the recipe:

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar *I used half dark and half light, because I had the end of 2 boxes*
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12 oz. package) chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts *I used walnuts*

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. 

Mmm.. cookie dough..

Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Ready to be baked

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. *I like soft cookies, so I usually aim to have them out of the oven sooner rather than later.* Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.  


They turned out great! I took them in to work, and everyone seemed to love the big chips along with the little ones.  The only complaint I have is that the recipe said it makes 5 dozen cookies, and I barely came out with 2.5 dozen. They weren't huge cookies or anything - I dropped by tablespoonfuls like the recipe told me to. So, keep this in mind next time you're trying to make enough for, say, an entire restaurant staff. And the boyfriend was a little sad that there weren't any left at the house.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Feast

The lineup

The idea for the feast started when I found a 5 lb. pork shoulder roast on sale at the grocery store. I threw it in the freezer and saved it for a night I could share it with some friends. When the feast was decided for this week, I defrosted it, packed it up with some equipment, a recipe, and Brandon, and headed to Tim's house. Once we got there, we figured out what else we wanted to make, and went out to get wine and groceries.

For crudités, we cut up some veggies and Tim poached some local shrimp in a court bouillon (Brandon and Justin were big helpers and peeled and de-veined the shrimp).  I made some Green Goddess dressing (and as a result became thoroughly jealous of Tim's awesome food processor).
Mmm . . .Green Goddess

For the pork, I followed a recipe I've been saving out of the September '09 issue of Gourmet magazine.  It was actually pretty simple, besides the fact that I called six places before I could find pink peppercorns. Finally, I was able to place a hold on the last tin at Caviar & Bananas downtown.  Here is the recipe:

Peppercorn Roasted Pork with Vermouth Pan Sauce

6 Tbsp pink peppercorns, divided
2 Tbsp black peppercorns
1 1/2 Tbsp fennel seeds
7 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 (5-lb) boneless pork shoulder roast (butt end)
1/2 cup dry vermouth
2 cups chicken broth  (that's right, I used my homemade stuff)
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour

Grind 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) pink peppercorns with black peppercorns and fennel seeds in electric spice grinder, then stir together with garlic, oil, and 1 Tbsp salt.  

Pat pork dry and use a paring knife to make about 16 (1-inch deep) slits all over roast.  Stuff slits with all but 1 Tbsp garlic-peppercorn paste, then rub remaining Tbsp all over roast.  Put in a small (13 x 9 inch) flameproof roasting pan and marinate, chilled, 8 to 24 hours.

All rubbed down and ready to roast

Let pork stand at room temperature 1 hour.  Preheat oven to 350 with rack in middle. 

Roast pork, fat side up, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of meat registers 150 degrees,  1 1/2 to 2 hours. (Mine took a full 2 hours.)  Transfer pork to a cutting board and let rest 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour off all but about 1 Tbsp fat from roasting pan.  Add vermouth to pan and boil, scraping up brown bits, 2 minutes.  Stir in broth, any meat juices from cutting board, and remaining 2 Tbsp pink peppercorns and boil until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, about 5 minutes.  
Working on the sauce

Knead together butter and flour, then whisk into sauce and boil, whisking constantly, until just slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Serve pork with sauce.


While all this pork roasting was happening, Tim was working on the sides.  He had already made some collards earlier in the week, and we decided to doctor them with a little mustard and brown sugar.  I have only recently been teaching myself to enjoy collards, and I thought these were great. He threw together a really delicious risotto, which had red wine, crimini mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese folded into it. He also carved the pork, because it had a very small little bone running through it, and I couldn't figure how to work around it (yes, I was also about 5 glasses of wine deep at that point). That bone is also probably why the pork took a little longer to roast. 

The outcome

In the end, it all tasted fabulous. The pork was still nicely pink and juicy, the risotto was really creamy and flavorful, and I loved the collards.  
Tim, Brandon, Morgan, Justin

We all had a blast. And yes, I found myself hanging out with four boys for most of the night.  Morgan's girlfriend Carlie did show up later to keep me company, and to enjoy some nice leftovers. All in all, a very enjoyable feast :)