Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Savory Pumpkin Pasta

Long before pumpkin everything was popular, long before you could buy pumpkin ravioli in the grocery store, I had a squadron commander's wife who LOVED to host our October spouses' coffee and LOVED to serve everything pumpkin to mark the occasion. Never before had any of us eaten pumpkin muffins, let alone pumpkin pasta - this was bizarre fare! And yet, it was delicious fare... I asked for her recipe for the pumpkin pasta, which was a Martha Stewart concoction involving cutting up and roasting pie pumpkins - well worth the work, if you have no other option, but a few years later I found a recipe for creamy pumpkin pasta using canned pumpkin puree - much more my style on most days. Combining the best of both recipes, I came up with the following, and it's been a fall favorite ever since.


Savory Pumpkin Pasta
Serves 4. (I often cut this recipe in half.)
  • 1 lb. pasta (penne, farfalle, rigatoni, or campanelle are my favorites for this)
  • 8 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 ½ c. chicken stock
  • 1 15 oz. can pure pumpkin puree
  • ¼ tsp. allspice
  • 1/8 tsp. dried thyme or 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • pinch dried sage
  • ½ c. heavy cream
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente.  Drain pasta and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp.  Remove bacon from the pan and set aside.
  3. Add sliced onion to the bacon drippings in the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until sweet and golden-brown.  Turn down the heat to low, discard excess bacon grease, and add to the pan with the onions: chicken stock, pumpkin puree, and herbs and spices.  Stir until sauce is heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in heavy cream.  Add pasta to the sauce, and toss to coat.
  4. Serve pasta topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and bacon pieces.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Easy Beer Bread (and 3 Soups to Go with It!)

I love this recipe! And as much as I love Southern Living, the picture they have with this recipe is terrible and not particularly appetizing. So I'm posting this a) to share a delicious homemade bread recipe and 2) {as Paul Reiser used to number his points on Mad About You} to post some more accurate pictures with my stash of online recipes.

This bread recipe comes together quickly, requires few ingredients, makes your house smell amazing, and the buttery crust is a hit with young and old alike. I make this most often to go with soups that pair well with a dense, yeasty bread (see soup recipes below).

Easy Beer Bread
  • 3 c. self-rising flour (or you can substitute 3 c. all-purpose flour + 3 3/4 tsp. baking powder + 3/8 tsp. salt)
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 12-oz. bottle of beer (I recommend a mild ale or lager--stay away from IPAs, stouts, etc.)
  • 1/4 c. butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan.
In a mixing bowl, combine flour and sugar. (For cheesy bread, you can add shredded cheddar cheese to the dry mixture.) Pour in beer and mix well.
Pour mixture into prepared loaf pan, and bake for 45 minutes.
Drizzle melted butter over the top of the bread and bake an additional 10 minutes.

You should probably let it cool before slicing, but we can never wait that long.

Crock Pot Tomato-Basil Parmesan Soup 

Hard Rock Cafe Baked Potato Soup 
My dear friend, Melanie, made this for a baby shower she co-hosted for me, and this recipe has been a favorite ever since. I recommend 1 tsp. of salt instead of 1 1/2, and as Melanie suggested, prep/chop all the ingredients before you start cooking.

Broccoli-Cheese Soup
I know that processed cheese is not real food, but once in a while I can't resist.
A teacher-friend of mine shared this Weight Watchers recipe with me once upon a time, when I was teaching school. I like to use a bag of frozen broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots; mild Rotel; and I puree it before adding the Velveeta.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Best Chicken Fingers Ever

Last Tuesday, Stephen took the day off and we enjoyed a date in the middle of the day! I'd planned a pasta dish for dinner, but we ended up eating {a lot of} Italian for lunch. Feeling less-than-motivated to cook after our lovely mini-vacation in the middle of the week, I wanted Chick-Fil-A, but resisted the temptation to eat out twice in one day. Hence, the chicken fingers.

I've made some good chicken fingers and nuggets before, and we've all had our share of them at restaurants, but the reaction to these was something else. Stephen declared that they were "the best chicken fingers I've ever had," and Caroline, who hates chicken--in all forms, even Chick-Fil-A--loved them and asked me to make them again soon. They were such a hit that I made them again on Saturday, much to everyone's delight. {Plus, it enabled me to double-check the following recipe.}

The Best Chicken Fingers Ever

  • 8-10 boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins
  • 1/4 c. bread & butter pickle juice
  • 3/4 c. milk
  • 1 egg
Whisk the pickle juice, milk, and egg together, and pour into a gallon-size Ziploc bag. Add the chicken and marinate for 1-4 hours.

Save the marinade, which will become your egg wash. Remove chicken, place on a paper towel-lined plate, and pat dry.

In another gallon-size bag, mix together the following:
  • 1 c. Bisquick
  • 3 T powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
You will also need
  • Vegetable oil, canola oil, or peanut oil for frying
In a large skillet, pour enough oil to fill the pan to about 1/4 inch. Heat over medium-high heat until dropping a bit of Bisquick in the oil sizzles. Keep the oil handy in case you need to add more later.

Place 3-4 pieces of chicken at a time in the Bisquick mixture and shake to coat.
Shake off excess Bisquick mixture, then dip chicken pieces in egg wash, and then return chicken to Bisquick mixture and shake to coat again.

These babies are ready for frying! Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to fry in batches so that the pieces are not touching each other as they cook.

Fry for 3-4 minutes per side, turning when a side is a rich brown color. Watch carefully, so that they don't burn, and if they seem to be browning too quickly, turn down the heat a bit--we want those fingers cooked through {zero pink} without getting burned on the outside.

As you can see, we ate ours with biscuits--cheater biscuits, as I call them--Mary B's, fabulous from the freezer section.

I also made a honey-mustard dip. I actually like it better with plain Greek yogurt, but all I had was sour cream, which certainly worked in a pinch.

Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
The following proportions will get you started, but mix this stuff to taste and in the quantity you need for your crew. 
  • 2 parts plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 1 part Dijon mustard
  • 1 part honey