Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Week of Deliciousness (2013)

Last year, I started a new tradition which I later named my Thanksgiving Week of Deliciousness, in which I cooked a bounty of fall/harvest-themed foods using the abundance of free time available because of have five consecutive days off work. This year I've decided to carry on the tradition, though with a slightly less ambitious bucket list. Here are some things I plan to make this week:

Marinated Brussels Sprout Skewers with Ginger Barley Pilaf - I may also throw in some rutabaga, parsnip, or other autumn root vegetable I've never tried, and I plan to roast the veggies rather than skewer and grill them.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Wild Rice Pistachio Stuffing - Side note: If you're looking for some healthier, slightly out-of-the-box dishes to include on your Thanksgiving table, this site (A Couple Cooks) creates a Thanksgiving menu each year with some creative ideas.

Roasted Sweet Potato, Caramelized Onion, and Gorgonzola Quiche - I'll probably make it crustless, and sub pumpkin for sweet potato.

For Thanksgiving day, I am waiting to hear back about what kind of dish I should contribute to the feast, but I'm leaning toward Roasted Butternut Squash with Mustard Vinaigrette or something with sweet potatoes.

Also, while I won't be making either of these this week, I think you should! Cranberry Crostini and/or Baked Brie with Maple-Roasted Cranberries.

How about you? What yummy treats are you planning to make this week, either for Thanksgiving or purely for the fun of it?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Coconut Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

I'm going to start with two apologies. Okay three. First, I'm sorry I haven't posted in so long. Let's blame surgery for that one. Lots of time prepping for surgery and dealing with insurance companies + having little energy after surgery = not so much time for cooking. Add to that awesome friends who brought me meals, and my kitchen has been lying fairly dormant the last few weeks.

Second, I know I've been overloading you with pumpkin lately (is there such a thing as too much pumpkin?), but bear with me for one more pumpkin recipe because this one is perfect for Thanksgiving. (Okay two more, because I have a pumpkin cinnamon rolls recipe that's begging to be shared.)

Third, forgive the lack of good photos. I made this pie for a Thanksgiving gathering of friends last night, and my focus was on spending time with my friends rather than bringing my nice camera and finding a spot with good lighting and yadda yadda yadda. So a quick camera phone snapshot will have to do. But the recipe is yummy enough to share even without mouthwatering photos to go with it.

Now that that's over with, let's move on. I'm always a fan of putting a fresh spin on a classic, and I'm always a fan of putting pumpkin and coconut together. So when I saw this Pumpkin Coconut Pie recipe in the latest Food Network Magazine, it wasn't a hard decision to make it for house church Thanksgiving.

Fun tidbit: This was my first time to make pumpkin pie. Ever.

I took the filling from the Pumpkin Coconut Pie recipe and swapped out the crust for a chocolate one based on this Pumpkin-Chocolate Chiffon Pie, also from Food Network Magazine. I thought the result was delightful, and I received several compliments on the pie. The texture was nice and creamy, and the flavor was not overly sweet or overly spiced. The coconut flavor came through nicely and played well with the chocolate and pumpkin.

So if you haven't nailed down your desserts yet for your Thanksgiving feast(s), I'd highly recommend including this pie in the dessert spread.

Coconut Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

Adapted from Food Network 
Yield: 1 pie, 8-10 servings

For the crust
5 oz. chocolate graham crackers (1/3 of a 15-oz. box)
1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
3 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. butter, melted

For the filling and topping
1 (15-oz.) can pumpkin puree
1 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp. rum or coconut rum (optional)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 to 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut (for topping)

Make the crust: Spray a 9-inch pie plate and preheat the oven to 350. Pulse/process the graham crackers and coconut in a food processor until finely ground. Pour into a bowl and mix in the 3 Tbsp. sugar and melted butter. Stir with a fork and/or your fingers until well combined. Pour into prepared pie plate, pressing the crumb mixture along the bottom and up the sides. Bake 15-20 minutes, until set, and move to a rack to cool completely.

While the crust cooks then cools, make the filling: Reduce oven temp to 325. In a large bowl, gently whisk together all of the filling ingredients (except shredded coconut) until combined. Pour into cooled crust and place the pie on a rimmed cookie sheet. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the center of the pie is almost set but still jiggles a bit. Move to a rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, toast the coconut: Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Spread out the shredded coconut in the pan and cook, stirring often, until toasted and fragrant. Remove to a plate to cool. When the pie comes out of the oven, sprinkle toasted coconut around the edges of the pie.


  • For the crust, the original recipe said to do everything in the food processor. However, I got sugar lodged in the crevices of my lid, so when I went to take the lid off in order to add the butter, I almost couldn't get the lid off because of the sugar granules stuck between the lid and the bowl. So as you can see above, I rewrote the directions above so the sugar wouldn't be in the food processor. I think it's good to have the coconut and graham crackers whirling around in there together, though, so the coconut gets chopped up a bit more. 
  • The original crust recipe also suggested adding 1/4 tsp. orange zest to the crust. I left that out because I already had a good trio of chocolate-coconut-pumpkin and didn't want to risk having too many flavors. If you try it with the orange zest, I'd love to hear how it turns out!
  • Be sure to allow plenty of time for the pie to cool. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sugar and Spice Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

In one of my Penzeys orders, I got a jar of Tsardust Memories, which Penzeys describes as, "Warm and spicy-sweet, this blend is awesome with ground beef - burgers, meatloaf, meatballs, casseroles... Excellent in hearty soups and stews, and one of the best things ever on pork chops... Hand-mixed from: salt, garlic, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, marjoram."

Though I haven't yet managed to grace some pork chops with this Russian blend, Tsardust Memories came in quite handy when seasoning some pumpkin seeds for roasting. It's a great blend of sweet and savory flavors, and the cinnamon and nutmeg are perfect for cooler months! If you don't have any Tsardust Memories, it's okay--just use a combination of salt, garlic, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, and marjoram (or oregano).

Sugar and Spice Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
From me! I didn't measure a single ingredient, so these amounts are guesses I made afterward. 

Seeds from 1 pumpkin - strings removed, but NOT rinsed
Dark brown sugar - approx 1 Tbsp
Tsardust Memories - approx 1/2 to 1 tsp. (or use salt, garlic, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, and marjoram)
Cinnamon - small to medium sprinkle - maybe 1/4 tsp
Chipotle powder - small sprinkle

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (or foil plus cooking spray--these will be sticky!).

In a small bowl, sprinkle seasonings over the pumpkin seeds, and stir well. Spread seeds in an even layer on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes; stir; bake for an additional 5-8 minutes, until toasted and crispy but not too dark.

Allow to cool before serving.