Sunday, November 23, 2014

2014 Thanksgiving Week of Deliciousness

Thanksgiving week is upon us and ample hours for hanging out at home or with friends is just around the corner, so it's time for this year's edition of a tradition I like to call Thanksgiving Week of Deliciousness (see similar posts from 2013 and 2012).

This year's Thanksgiving tastiness was actually inaugurated with my house church's Thanksgiving feast on Friday, and I'm including my contributions to that with the rest of the recipes below.

This year, it looks like my brother will be here for at least part of this week, which means I theoretically can make even more food since there will be two of us to eat it. :) Without further ado, here's what I've got on my list to make this week:

Mains and Sides:
Desserts and Drinks:
What are you eating this week?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Introducing the recipe index page

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm proud to introduce you to my fresh and shiny recipe index page! You can easily access it via the Recipe Index tab at the top of the page, right below the header image. It categorizes all 79 (and counting) recipes currently on the blog, and I'll keep updating it as I add more recipes.

I kept it text-based rather than adding pictures for every recipe, because text-based recipe indexes are generally my preference on other food blogs I read. I find it easier to glance through all the recipes, search by key word, etc. And text-based is better for people (like me!) who live in the country and are limited to slower internet connections with stingy data allowances.

At some point I ought to add sub-categories within the Main Dishes category, but I'm still figuring out which sub-categories make the most sense. Let me know if you think of more enhancements or other changes that would be helpful!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Pumpquinoa, Version 2.0

For this year's pumpkin party, I wanted to carry on the Pumpquinoa tradition, but also wanted to change it up a bit. After reading through many stuffed pumpkin recipes, I settled on adding chopped apples, celery, and cranberries in place of the carrots. For the cheeses, I used Gruyere and Parmesan instead of monterey jack and pepper jack--and since Gruyere and Parmesan have a stronger flavor than the jack cheeses, I ended up using less cheese in order to let all the ingredients shine. Havarti would also be good, and I wonder how Brie would have tasted.

This year I also really wanted to use a Cinderella pumpkin, since I'd heard that they have much better flavor than the standard jack-o-lantern pumpkins I've used before. Miss Cinderella definitely did have a fuller flavor than old Jack, and she was quite lovely! On the other hand, she was a little more expensive, and my guests have always seemed perfectly happy with Jack in the past. So use whichever type of pumpkin strikes your fancy.

Overall, I really liked this fruited version of the filling, though I think I like the original a tiny bit better. While the cranberries and apples added a pleasant sweetness, I missed the carrots and the slight kick from the pepper jack cheese.

One final note. I'm not usually a big fan of kitchen gadgets that do only one thing. However, late last fall I spotted this pumpkin scraper/scooper in the store and bought it. Lemme tell ya' . . . it came in really handy while scooping all the seeds and stringiness out of this big pumpkin! The toothed edge scraped and scooped much more efficiently than the basic small soup spoons I normally use. The scoop is large enough that it probably won't fit inside a smaller pumpkin or other winter squash, but several weeks ago I used it on an acorn squash that I'd quartered, and it worked nicely.

Stuffed Pumpkin with Quinoa, Sausage, and Apples
Adapted from my pumpquinoa recipe and many other stuffed pumpkin recipes
Yield: 12+ servings

1 Cinderella pumpkin
2-2/3 cups quinoa (uncooked)
1 lb. ground pork sausage
1 lb. ground turkey sausage
2 cups finely chopped onion
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chopped Granny Smith apples
1 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup white wine
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
1/2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
Pinch of cayenne
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
4 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded
5 oz. Parmesan cheese, shredded, divided

Cut the lid off the pumpkin, being sure to cut at an angle so that, when the pumpkin shrinks while it bakes, the lid will still stay on. Clean out the seeds and stringy parts and set the pumpkin aside. (Keep the seeds and roast them!)

Cook the quinoa: Rinse the quinoa well unless it's pre-rinsed. In a saucepan, bring quinoa, 4 cups water, and a small pinch of salt to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until quinoa is tender but still chewy. For this recipe, I think it's best to slightly undercook the quinoa since it will cook for quite a bit longer inside the pumpkin.

In a large skillet, brown the turkey sausage; drain and set the sausage aside. Return the skillet to the stove, and cook the onion. When it's starting to get tender, add the garlic, apples, celery, and white wine. Increase heat so the wine will evaporate more quickly; cook until the wine is mostly evaporated and the apples and celery are starting to get tender. Remove from heat.

Adjust your oven racks to accommodate a large pumpkin. Preheat oven to 350.

Add the following to a large bowl: cooked quinoa, dried cranberries, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Add the cooked sausage and the onion mixture, then stir well to combine. Reserve a couple handfuls of Parmesan (for topping) then stir in the Gruyere and most of the Parmesan.

Taste; add more seasonings and cheese if desired.

Place your pumpkin on a good-sized baking sheet or pan (it will almost certainly leak some moisture while it cooks, and there's a chance it will collapse and spill its filling while cooking). Scoop the quinoa filling into the cavity of the pumpkin. Top with reserved Parmesan. Place the pumpkin lid on top.

Bake for 1-2 hours, until the pumpkin flesh is soft enough to scoop out and serve, but not so soft that the pumpkin collapses. My Cinderella pumpkin was well done in an hour; previous years' jack-o-lantern pumpkins have taken up to 2 hours. So check it at least after an hour, by poking it with a fork. If desired, remove the pumpkin lid for the last 15-30 minutes of baking time to let the cheese toast a little bit.

Carefully remove from the oven (this may be a two-person job). Transfer to a serving platter if desired (and if the pumpkin flesh is solid enough to be transferred). Serve directly from the pumpkin, scraping out some of the pumpkin flesh to go with each serving.

Note: A lot of the prep can be done ahead of time so that assembly the day of is less of a marathon. I usually brown the meat, cook the quinoa, and chop the onions and celery/carrots the night before. Just warm the meat and quinoa a bit before mixing up all the filling components, and you'll be good.