Monday, October 28, 2013

The Perfect Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Halloween is just around the corner and in my mind it is the starting line of the holiday season.  Festivity is in the air, the temperature is cooling down and football is in full gear across the country.

This past weekend my cousins and I got together to do a little pumpkin carving.  As these things go, it might have been a little more competitive than in years past but a little family rivalry never hurt anyone....right?

Well we all survived and came out with several pretty spectacular looking one that might haunt my dreams.
With such an entertaining evening and so many pumpkins to clean out there was only one more thing we HAD to do before the cleaning began....roast the pumpkin seeds.  There are a million different ways you can do this and they are delicious still if you put them on a baking sheet (once cleaned of course), brush them with a little cooking spray or canola oil and season with a little salt and pepper, but this year I decided to do a little digging to see if there was anything I was missing.  Here is what I found and they were absolutely delicious!

Simple Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Salt and Pepper
Pumpkin Seeds
Cooking Spray

Clean out your pumpkin reserving the seeds.  Rinse off the seeds removing as much of the stringy, gooey stuff as possible.  You don't have to get rid of every last strand as some of it will leave some delicious flavors but you certainly want to knock off all the chunks!

Boil the seeds in salted water for 10 minutes.  I had just under 2 cups of seeds so I used about 6-8 cups of water and 1/4 cup salt.  
Drain in a colander and pat dry.

Place on a baking sheet and toss in cooking spray.  Season with salt and pepper or your spices of choice.  You could do a million different things here from cajun to sweet!
Roast in a 325 degree oven for 10 minutes keeping a close eye on them as you don't want them to burn and every oven is different. 
 EAT and ENJOY!!

We decided our reward would be a bonfire with s'mores!
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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pumpkin Fudge

It is that time of year again when everything from coffee to salad dressings is in some way, shape or form re-created with a pumpkin flavor or a Halloween theme.  

I personally LOVE pumpkin and like to pretend that even if the recipe called for 2.5 cups of sugar it is still good for me because pumpkin was included and somewhere along the way I feel certain someone told me it was a super food.

Now that "someone" could have been imaginary but I am going to go with it!

In my taste testing to make sure that I have sampled just about every type of fudge out there, a friend of mine and I decided to give this one a shot....after all it's "health"!

Pumpkin Fudge

3 cups sugar
3/4 cup melted butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 (12 oz.) package white chocolate morsels
1 (7 oz.) jar marshmallow creme
1 cup chopped pecans (toasted)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Stir together first 6 ingredients in a 3 1/2 quart saucepan over medium-high heat, and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil.

Cook, stirring constantly, until a candy thermometer registers 234 degrees (soft-ball stage)
or for about 12 minutes.

Remove pan from heat; stir in remaining ingredients until well blended.  Pour into a greased aluminum foil lined 9-inch square pan.
Let stand 2 hours or until completely cool; cut fudge into squares
This was a magical day of fudge-making (that sounds awful...scratch that). We ended up with three flavors of fudge and the pumpkin was delicious among deliciousness!!!
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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Skillet Baked Ziti

There are two styles of food that I can always eat....It doesn't matter if I have just had it, I will eat either over and over again. They are: Mexican and Italian.

Pizza, pasta and cheese dip are most certainly my weakness!

I don't typically eat leftovers, unless they fall into these two cuisines...then I will fight you to the death for that Styrofoam box!  When I was having a few friends over for dinner recently we went through the typical protocol where I pick out a few recipes, send them out and get everyone's choices to determine what we are going to have.

Of course, this means I get the first round of ideas, so basically it is a matter of determining whether it is going to be either Mexican or Italian.

I was feeling a little sassy on this particular day, with a little Sophia Loren in my step, so I was naturally drawn to the Italian!

What I loved most about this recipe, aside from the delicious outcome, was the fact that it didn't break the budget to feed 4 people, in fact I think the entire meal cost me no more than $15....that is a win/win for me!

Skillet Baked Ziti

6 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes (I like Hunts)
3 cups water
12 ounces ziti pasta (3¾ cups)
1 tablespoons Italian Seasoning
4 ounces (1/2 cup) whole-milk ricotta
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 475 degrees.
Combine 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in 12-inch ovensafe nonstick skillet and saute over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add crushed tomatoes, Italian Seasoning, water, ziti and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Cover and cook, stirring often and adjusting heat as needed to maintain vigorous simmer, until ziti is almost tender, 15-18 minutes. Make sure you don't cook it too much. It will continue to cook in the oven.
Meanwhile, combine ricotta, remaining 1 teaspoon oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Set aside.
Stir in cream, Parmesan, and basil into the skillet and season with salt and pepper to taste.
At this point if your skillet is not ovensafe, transfer the pasta mixture into a shallow 2-quart casserole dish before sprinkling with the ricotta and cheese and baking. If you're really against turning on the oven you could cover the skillet with a lid and melt the cheese that way but it won't get browned and toasty.
Add dollops of the ricotta mixture with a spoon and sprinkle mozzarella evenly over ziti.
Transfer skillet to oven and bake until cheese has melted and browned, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of basil. Serve.
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