Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pumpkin Season and Pumpkin Puree

When the humidity goes away and the first signs of the fall breeze start to blow through NC, a switch in my brain turns on and all I want is pumpkin pie, muffins, bread, granola, puree, seeds...pumpkin anything! And yes, it might be totally cliche and trendy to love pumpkin flavored dishes in the fall, but I...DON'T....CARE!!

Pumpkin Season and Pumpkin Puree |

If you know me, you know that I genuinely LOVE anything pumpkin. And if you don't know me, let me try and express how much...

I don't care how unhealthy it is, if it has pumpkin in it, I am going to devour it! 

Pumpkin Season and Pumpkin Puree |

A few years ago, the grocery stores in my area actually ran out of pumpkin puree at the beginning signs of Fall! I freaked out so much that I ordered multiple cans online just so I could have my pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. A bit extreme, I agree, but that just goes to show how much I love, no, need pumpkin in my life! 

Last year, I tried making my own pumpkin puree to use for baking, oatmeal, or just mixing with ice cream or yogurt. Making your own puree, is a bit time consuming, but develops a whole added flavor level than canned puree. However, I always have a can on backup in the pantry! 

Here are some of my favorite pumpkin recipes that are perfect to make with the pumpkin puree.

Pumpkin Recipes

 - Pumpkin Walnut Granola from Everybody Likes Sandwiches
 - Pumpkin Ale Waffles from The Beeroness
 - Pumpkin and Feta Muffins from 101 Cookbooks
 - Silky Pumpkin Pie at Fosters Market in North Carolina (my go to pumpkin pie recipe)
 - Pumpkin butter from Oh She Glows

Homemade Pumpkin Puree 

Adapted from Oh She Glows
Makes: About 5 cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40-50 minutes

1 (3-5 pound) Sugar Pie pumpkin (I usually do 2 at a time) 
Olive oil spray

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Pumpkin Season and Pumpkin Puree |

Using a sharp knife, slice the stem off of the pumpkins and cut in half. Take a metal spoon and scoop out all of the "guts" and seeds. The seeds can be reserved and roasted (great recipe here), but I don't usually do this.

Pumpkin Season and Pumpkin Puree | www.kettlercuisine.comPumpkin Season and Pumpkin Puree |

Don't worry about the skin, this is best left on the halves since it will easily peel off after the pumpkin is cooked. Brush the inside of the pumpkin halves with a little bit of olive oil and lay (cut side down) on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Pumpkin Season and Pumpkin Puree | www.kettlercuisine.comPumpkin Season and Pumpkin Puree |

Bake for 40 minutes at 350F. The pumpkin skin will turn darker and a fork will easily poke through the skin when it is finished. If you start with a larger pumpkin, then the cooking time will be longer. 

With a large spoon, scoop out the "meat" of the pumpkin, or just simply peel off the skin. Place the pumpkin into a food processor or blender (in batches if you have too much). Process or blend until you get a smooth, creamy, even texture. Store in the refrigerator for up to three weeks or store in the freezer for later in the season! 

I like to use my pumpkin puree in my morning yogurt and granola and for baking, like my mother-in-law's famous Pumpkin Bars! And with that....I leave you with this image:

Pumpkin Season and Pumpkin Puree |

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Light Macaroni Salad

We all know I can't resist a good recipe makeover!! Ryan and most of my friends like creamy- (a.k.a. mayonnaise) based salads. However, I have never been a huge fan of mayo, except for on a BLT sandwich. To make matters worse, creamy salads never agree with my stomach, although I do crave the creamy consistency sometimes. Ice cream is the thing that I miss the most! In addition to creamy, I try to stay away from gluten.

Light Macaroni Salad |

Although I don't have a huge problem with gluten, it is usually advised that people with Crohn's Disease should avoid it. After my diagnosis a few years ago, I researched and found various helpful sites, books, discussion boards and even a support group that Ryan and I frequented when my symptoms were bad. However, learning how to eat for my disease was a whole different story. Unfortunately, patients with Crohn's are all effected differently by different foods.

The best way for me to understand safe foods was to keep a food journal, which I did for the better part of a year. I learned a lot in that year, mostly the "trigger" foods. Anything fried was out of the question (although this wasn't too upsetting for me). Beets, popcorn, peanuts, ice cream and red meat are always painful. Corn, sugar-loaded things and creamy salads (tuna, chicken, creamy cole slaws) can trigger symptoms as well.

Recreating Delicious

As for the foods I had to leave behind, I learned how to substitute ingredients or recreate recipes so I didn't always have to miss out on great flavors. Comfy Belly is one of the blogs that I follow. The author focuses on healthy, healing recipes for her son with Crohn's. I like her recipes because they usually shy away from my trigger foods and include healing, power foods. I decided to try her macaroni salad, which I have not had in about three years. I made some changes and substituted greek yogurt for most of the mayo to cut down on the fat. I was secretive and didn't tell Ryan it was gluten free and light, to get his full reaction. He thought It was delicious!

Light Macaroni Salad |

I should point out that this is great for parties, but not tailgates in 85 degree weather! The creaminess of the pasta starts to break down in the sun and the gluten free pasta gets hard and clumps together.

I also had some the next day after all of the flavors melded together and it was delicious,  so this is a great make ahead side dish.

You can substitute whole wheat pasta or regular pasta in this recipe as well.

Light Macaroni Salad

Adapted from Comfy Belly
Yields: 4 cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: Pasta cooking time

4 cups of cooked pasta (I used gluten-free pasta - Quinoa pasta)
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1/4 cup of mayonnaise (can use low fat)
3/4 cup of plain greek yogurt (can use low fat)
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta per the instructions on the box. I reserved some of the pasta water just in case the dressing got too thick. Drain and rinse the pasta in cool water and set aside.

Mix the pepper, celery, mayo, yogurt, mustard, vinegar, honey, cayenne, salt and pepper into a large bowl. Stir in the pasta and mix to combine. Store the pasta salad in the refrigerator for at least and hour and up to overnight. Serve chilled.

Light Macaroni Salad |

Friday, September 21, 2012

Wing (End)Zone

Wing (End)Zone |

This is our precious goddaughter, Avery. And she is ready for some football! Much like many of our other friends that came over the other weekend for opening football weekend!! Ryan and I figured we would go all out and make wings. We decided on three different kinds and put out the usual carrot and celery with ranch dip. All of our guests contributed to the food supply as well.

Normally I don't recommend trying a new recipe for a party, but wings sounded so delicious and with Ryan's grilling skills, I knew we would pull through! We not only tried a new recipe for our shin-dig, we tried grilling wings for the first time. Let's just say, touchdown!!

Wing (End)Zone |

Wings are one of those dishes that we previously would have only ordered in a restaurant because they are more hassle than delicious. I am not a frequent wing-eater either, mostly because they are deep fried and don't agree with my stomach. However, my husband LOVES wings, possibly one of his favorite foods (along with Ranch dressing and Bojangles). He always seems to find an excuse to go out for Wing Night with the boys. 

He prefers the buffalo sauce, which is my least favorite! Here we are again folks, at the culinary crossroads to find something we agree on...not only on the "sauce," but the method of cooking. 

Frying was definitely not going to happen. From the day we said "I Do," it was clear that nothing would be fried in my kitchen! So I gave him the buffalo sauce in exchange for not frying. We then agreed on two other flavors - Sweet and Spicy and Stout Jerk. We looked for recipes that called for grilled wings, which was hard to find! Most recipes call for baking or frying the wings.

Wing (End)Zone |

We followed the Sweet and Spicy recipe from Serious Eats exactly but altered the Stout Jerk one from The Beeroness slightly. And, just for my beloved, we grilled plain wings to cover in buffalo sauce :)

For the Sweet and Spicy wings, hop over to Serious Eats and try out this recipe (my personal fav of the day). 

For the Buffalo wings, we simply marinaded chicken wings (and drumsticks) in pepper, salt and olive oil for a few hours, grilled them and then poured our favorite wing sauce on top.

Wing (End)Zone |

And finally, the Stout Jerk Chicken wings recipe which we got from The Beeroness. We decided to grill them instead of baking and they turned out fantastic! Side note about The Beeroness blog, it is awesome! She uses craft beers in all of her recipes. The girl really knows how to cook! I will definitely share more of her recipes in the future since my husband keeps begging me to make them. You might recall his love of craft beers from this post.

Stout Jerk Chicken Wings

Adapted from The Beeroness, Inspired from Blood, Bones & Butter
Yields: 6-8 servings (appetizer portion)
Prep Time: 2-24 hours (depending on marinade time)
Cook Time: 15-25 minutes

1/2 cup stout beer (we used Stone Imperial Stout)
4 small Habanero peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons ponzu sauce (Asian citrus sauce)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
2 teaspoons Chinese 5 spice powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 pounds chicken wings and thighs

Add all of the ingredients except the chicken into a food processor and mix until smooth.

Rinse the chicken in water and pat dry. Place into a large heavy duty Ziploc bag. Pour the marinade over the chicken and seal the bag tightly. Gently move the chicken around in the marinade to evenly distribute. Place the bag into a large baking dish and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight. Move the marinade around and flip the chicken every 2 or 3 hours to redistribute the sauce.

Once ready to cook, remove the bag from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to grilling. Heat a charcoal grill to medium-high heat, creating a direct heat side and an indirect heat side (by placing coals on one side of the grill).  Grease the grill grates (can use the half onion dipped in olive oil method that Ryan uses).

Wing (End)Zone |

Place the chicken wings and thighs on the indirect side, cover and cook until the skin starts to brown, anywhere between 7-15 minutes (depending on the size of the wings). Move the wings to the direct heat side of the grill and continue to cook until the skins have crisped, another 2-3 minutes. Depending on the size of the wings, you might want to remove one wing and test to make sure the chicken is cooked through before removing all. Once the chicken is cooked through, remove the wings from the grill and place on a large serving dish with plenty of wet naps on the side! Delicious!

Wing (End)Zone |

*Tip from the Grill Master

After reading this post, I received a lovely email from our close friends, the London's. You might remember them from this post. Anyways, Hal is by far one of the best Griller's I know of and he adds a few steps when grilling chicken wings:
When you remove the wings from the grill, toss them in a large mixing bowl with your favorite BBQ or wing sauce and then put them back on the grill to "set" the sauce. This creates a few crispies on the skin according to Hal. Another plus, is it helps keep the wings a little less messy. 

We are certainly going to try this next time we grill wings Hal and Sandy. Thanks for the feedback and for following the blog :)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cedar Plank Salmon

This Labor Day weekend was great! Ryan and I didn't have any travel plans and actually had down time to catch up on things. The only "thing" on our list was to pull out the grill! Although we both love seafood, we don't eat it a lot because it can be pricey. But while I was at Whole Food's over the weekend, I ventured past the seafood counter and noticed some fine-looking salmon on display! Fresh caught, and in-season.

Cedar Plank Salmon |

I always like to talk to the vendor behind the Whole Food's seafood counter, mostly because they are VERY knowledgeable about fish and always have great suggestions for preparation and recipes. However, this time, I knew exactly how to prepare it - Cedar Plank style!!

Cedar Plank Salmon |

Cooking salmon on cedar planks is just one of those meals that Ryan and I both LOVE - kind of like the buttermilk-brined pork chops. It is delicious every time! And I have to admit, Ryan doesn't cook that much, but the man is good on the grill! I know that Dave is smiling down with a proud father grin when I say this :)

Earlier this year, I bought a few cedar planks and we attempted the salmon for the first time, playing around with a few different marinades/sauces. In all honestly, you don't need to have sauce or marinade at all with a cedar plank, but we found this easy combination of flavors to enhance the taste even more. The only "think ahead" note is, remember to soak the plank in water before placing on a grill, so it doesn't disintegrate into flames!

Cedar Plank Salmon Fillets 

Yields: 2 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes + 1 hour soaking time
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes

2 (6 ounce) salmon fillets with skin
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest (reserve lemon for garnish)
Salt and pepper
Cedar Grilling Planks (soaked for 1 hour)

Place the prepared cedar plank into a large jelly roll pan and pour water on top to cover it. Put a large glass jar on top of the plank to keep it from floating.

Combine the mustard, maple syrup, rosemary and lemon zest in a small bowl and set aside.

Pull the fish out of the refrigerator and place on the counter for 10 minutes to bring closer to room temperature. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a charcoal grill to medium-high heat (or indirect heating setup) and add the soaked plank to the grill rack, close the cover and heat for 3 minutes, then flip the plank.

Pull off the plank and place the salmon filets skin-side down on top. Generously brush the marinade on the fillets and cook on indirect heat for 7 minutes. (This is a great time to grill some vegetables for a side dish).

Move the salmon planks closer to the direct heat for 3-5 minutes until the fish is done (depending on thickness of filets.

No flipping necessary, but you can add more marinade while it cooks if you want - the plank adds a lot of flavor though.

Cedar Plank Salmon |

Friday, September 7, 2012

Cherry Galette

There is nothing better than fresh cherries! And lucky for me, that is the only kind my husband will eat. (He refused to let me tell the story about how he indulged in an entire jar of Maraschino cherries when he was 10 which didn't end very well). Needless to say, he loves fresh cherries! 

Cherry Galette |

Unfortunately cherries can be expensive, even when they are in season. So, whenever I find them at the market or grocery store for a decent price, I pounce! The other issue, especially at the grocery store is that the bags are large, so you end up with a lot of cherries. And what should one do with all these cherries???? Cherry Pie! 

Cherry Galette |

The determination was there, but the time wasn't. I didn't have time to make all that crust (top and bottom layer). So, a cherry galette was born! 

Galette is a fancy alternative to a pie.  They are also great for using up fresh fruit, and making a small dessert for just the two of us. 

As we say farewell to cherry season, treat yourself to one last "hu-rah" with this recipe. Let me know what you think of these galettes!

Cherry Galette with a Hint of Lime

Adapted from Cooking Light
Yields: 6 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25-35 minutes

1 pre-made or homemade pie crust
4 cups of fresh cherries, pitted
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
3 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 teaspoon corn starch
1 tablespoon buttermilk
tablespoon turbinado sugar (raw sugar)

Whipped cream for serving

Start by pitting the cherries and placing into a bowl. Stir in the lime zest and 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Mix well and set aside for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the pie crust from the refrigerator and lay on the counter.

Cherry Galette |

Preheat the oven to 400F. Roll out the pie crust to a 12 inch diameter crust. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the prepared pie crust onto the paper. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. Sprinkle this on the crust, leaving a 2 inch border. Drain the cherries of their juices and place in the center of the pie crust, leaving a 2 inch border. Fold the dough border over the cherries, pressing gently to seal. Brush the edges of the dough with buttermilk and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar.

Cherry Galette |www.kettlercuisine.comCherry Galette |

Bake in the oven for 25-35 minutes until the edges of the galette are golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature until ready to serve.

Cherry Galette |

The small amount of lime zest is a fantastic addition to the flavor. Lemon could also be used in place of lime. 

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream!

Monday, September 3, 2012

7-Layer Bean Dip

Football Season - a time for excitement, disappointment, camaraderie and a lot of yelling. Unfortunately, it is also a time for very unhealthy foods! Since my Crohn's doesn't usually let me indulge in anything cheesy, fried or creamy, I usually always volunteer to bring something myself. And one of my favorite crowd pleasers, that happens to also be a waistline pleaser, is my 7-Layer Bean Dip. 

All you need to do is dedicate a little bit of time and make a few substitutions, and you can make your own easy layer dip that doesn't include all of the calories. 

7-Layer Bean Dip |

I thought this would be a perfect addition to the Live Draft Party for my all-girls-fantasy football league. Why should the guys have all the fun???

All the gals brought something over to our friends house, where we setup our computers for draft time. There was a lot of yelling, cursing, a few drinks here and there, and some very good food. Katie decided to make these yummy bits (Oreo Cheesecake Pretzel bites....remember the Chocolate Peanut Butter ones)??

And the table was filled with delicious food from everyone's kitchens.

7-Layer Bean Dip |

We put on our jersey's (paused for a very girly picture) and got down to business with the draft. 

The great thing about this dip, is that you can make several layers ahead of time and assemble right before the party or get together. The best way to keep this healthy is to make your own bean layer instead of the mystery refried beans that come from a can.

Here is the layer breakdown:

Layer 1 - "refried" black beans - by starting with whole black beans and adding healthy coconut oil and spices, it cuts back on a lot of the fat
Layer 2 - guacamole made with just avocado and salsa
Layer 3 - light sour cream
Layer 4 - salsa (fresh or your favorite brand)
Layer 5 - sharp cheddar cheese - since there is no melting in this dip, use a sharp cheese and less of it
Layer 6 - fresh chopped lettuce - for a little health benefit
Layer 7 - fresh chopped tomatoes - for a little extra health benefit

7-Layer Bean Dip |

7-Layer Bean Dip

Yields: 8x8 dish of dip
Prep Time: 30-45 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

1 Tablespoon oil (coconut or olive)
1 (15.5 ounce) can of black beans, drained and rinsed well
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/3 cup vegetable broth
1 avocado, mashed
Light sour cream
Sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Romaine lettuce, finely chopped
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
Fresh chives, chopped
Tortilla chips

Start with the bean layer. In a large saute pan over medium heat, warm the oil and saute the chopped onion for about 5 minutes. Stir in the cumin, chili powder and pinch of salt until well combined. Add the black beans and stir to warm up. Stir in the vegetable broth and bring to a simmer. With a potato masher or back of a large spoon, start to mash the beans in the pan. Continue to cook on medium-low heat, stirring and mashing along the way, until the mixture has thickened. Another method to "mashing" the beans is to place them into a food processor. Set the beans aside to cool.

Make the guacamole to your preference. We like to simply mash the avocado and mix in a little of our favorite salsa. Set this aside. 

Once the bean layer has cooled, get ready to assemble the dip. Spread the bean mixture in the bottom of an 8x8 glass dish (or dish being used for the dip). Then spread the guacamole on top of the beans, being careful not to blend them. Next, spread a layer of sour cream, then salsa and shredded cheddar cheese. Place this in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Layer the shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes on top of the dip right before serving. Garnish with chopped fresh chives.

Serve with your favorite tortilla chips and enjoy!!

7-Layer Bean Dip |