Tuesday Tea: Roasting pumpkin seeds

It’s finally starting to feel like fall around here! (Well, at least it was. Apart from today getting up into the 80s again…) I turned off my air conditioning and left my windows open all last weekend. But what really made it feel like fall for me was carving my pumpkin for Halloween. I hadn’t carved one in quite a while, but one thing I really enjoyed doing when I was a kid, just about as much as carving the pumpkin itself, was eating the roasted pumpkin seeds.

15463732298_519c0421fd_oIf you’ve never roasted your seeds before, it’s really easy! The most time consuming part is washing all the pumpkin guts off the seeds. While you’re doing that, you can preheat the oven to 300F. Once they’re clean, spread the seeds out in 1 layer on a greased baking sheet. This time around, I had 2 pumpkins worth of seeds, enough to fill 2 baking sheets. Roast those suckers for 30 minutes to get ’em all good and dried out. Then take them out and toss them in your seasonings. They’ll taste amazing if you just toss them in oil and salt, but feel free to experiment. I tried out something new this year & they turned out pretty great. I tossed my seeds in this mixture before spreading them back out onto the baking sheets:

1/8 tsp each of regular salt and sea salt (for a bit of texture)

1/4 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/8 tsp chili powder

2 Tbsp olive oil.

Put the seeds back in the oven to roast a bit more, about 20 minutes or so, or until they look nice and golden brown. Voila, you’ve got a super tasty fall snack! I’m enjoying mine right now with a nice mug of tea 🙂


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Cooking with Pinterest! Spinach & Tortellini Soup

I’m back, actually cooking things that I’ve pinned! This time with soup. In the crock pot. Spinach and tortellini soup, to be exact. From the picture, I imagined it being a lot creamier (much closer to the consistency of say, clam chowder) than it actually turned out. Which is why I got rolls to sop up the last bits from the bowl… and then wasn’t nearly as satisfying as I’d hoped.Creamy Spinach & Tortellini soup

Creamy Spinach & Tortellini soup

Despite this, the soup is actually pretty tasty. And in the crock pot. Because you know what the best thing about the crock pot is? Most of the cooking is done when you aren’t even there. FANTASTIC. I was able to fit the little bit of chopping onions & mushrooms into my morning routine before I headed off to work.

Of course, I had my little tweaks. Mainly to add meat and meat flavors to things that people insist on making vegetarian for some reason. In this case, that meant swapping chicken broth for veggie, and chicken tortellini in for cheese.Creamy Spinach & Tortellini soup

For you single folks, this was 4 full dinners for me. In hindsight, I maybe should have tried freezing half? I was really sick of this by the time I finished up my last dinner.

Happy cooking!

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Cooking with Pinterest: One pot tomato basil pasta

One-pot spaghetti One-pot spaghetti

It seems like this recipe has definitely made the rounds on Pinterest. For good reason. If you’re looking for something fast (that can possibly just use up whatever you have in your fridge) I can’t recommend this enough.One-pot spaghetti

I got fresh tomatoes instead of canned; I think this would also taste good with whole fresh cherry/grape tomatoes. Or whatever veggies you have in your fridge: peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, maybe even broccoli. I didn’t have fresh basil, so dried can work in a pinch. And of course my garlic was growing some undefined mold (this happens more than I’d like to admit in my fridge), so I estimated the taste with some garlic powder. I also didn’t have red pepper flakes, but I did have cayenne & a couple dashes of that was plenty enough heat for me (I’m a spicy food weakling). I also think that next time I’d try this with chicken broth and maybe some italian sausage chopped up & mixed in. Long story short, this is the epitome of Italian cooking — use whatever you’ve got.

This is one of those meals that may even taste better the next day, because the spaghetti soaks up all the extra juices. For you single folks, this was 3 dinners and a lunch worth of food.

Happy cooking!

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Cooking with Pinterest: Quinoa Mac-n-Cheese

I’m trying out a new “segment” (if you will) where I’m actually going to try cooking some of the many things that I’ve pinned on Pinterest. This goes hand-in-hand with my new goal to (once again) not go out to eat as much and maybe actually cook things for myself. Let’s see how long this lasts.

I recently acquired a good bit of quinoa from my grandmother, and since I’ve never actually cooked it myself, I set out to find a recipe to try it out. (Side note, tumblr doesn’t recognize quinoa as a word. HA.) I found this recipe for Quinoa Spinach Mac-n-Cheese (via Two Peas & Their Pod, but I’m just linking straight to her source.)

Y’all, this is some tasty stuff. The recipe is pretty straightforward, but here are my notes:

— I used 2% milk, with no ill effects. Still tastes yummy. It’s probably that whole block of cheese in the sauce.
— Speaking of cheese sauce, I won’t judge you if you lick the pot. This is a judgement free zone.
— Did you know that quinoa increases 4 times in size when you cook it? I’m definitely glad I googled this before I measured out 3 cups uncooked quinoa.
— I was going to recommend you could leave out the butter on the topping too, because it seemed like a lot & made the topping really soupy. But as I was just looking over the recipe, I’m pretty sure I read that ‘3/4 c panko bread crumbs’ as 1/4 cup, so. Yeah. Just… be sure to read the directions correctly.
— If (like me) you think that all this recipe is missing is a little meat, I added about a large breast size worth of chopped chicken that I’d cooked in a bit of olive oil & lemon pepper seasoning. It was a bit on the light side, so you could probably even add more than that.
— And last but not least, if you’re cooking just for 1, this made 2 sizeable dinner portions and a nice lunch 🙂

I call this try a success! Straight to my YUM board.

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Adventures in Cooking: Cabbage Soup

Cabbage soup for dinner!

I seem to have almost completely neglected to take pictures of this endeavor. In my love to cook all things Russian, I once again turned to Smitten Kitchen, where Deb had posted a recipe for Veselka’s cabbage soup. In Russian, it’s called щи (shchi, though the first letter is pronounced so quickly that the ‘ch’ sound is almost nonexistant).

This went together almost strangely easily (for me at least, who is always waiting for something to go wrong whilst cooking). That is, if you don’t count the fact that sauerkraut apparently does not come in small containers, only large ones. So now I have a large container minus one cup of sauerkraut in my fridge that I am never ever going to use.

Perfect for a hearty winter meal. I had mine with a side of black bread and a dollop of sour cream on top. And I had plenty of leftovers…

Hope I like it, cause I've got a TON leftover!

I have since eaten one of those frozen containers. I did think it a bit salty the first time around (the sour cream helps with this), so when I reheated, I added a cup of water, then tasted, & ended up adding another cup of water to even out the taste some.

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Adventures in Cooking: Gluten free cupcakes!

First foray into gluten-free cooking! This will date how far behind I am with these posts, but these were for a friend whose house I was staying at for a weekend visit just before Christmas. Whenever I stay with people I always try to bring them a little something to say, “Hey, thanks for letting me crash on your couch.” I feel a teensy bit bad bringing baked goods for these particular friends, since the one guy wouldn’t be able to eat them, so this time around one friend got Muddy Buddy mix & the other got these cupcakes!

The ingredients

I found this recipe for GF vegan chocolate cupackes, which I then proceeded to tweak, since I didn’t really care about it being vegan, AND since I only wanted to make a half dozen (plus one more for tasting/quality control ;).

I surprisingly had most of the ingredients already. I could not find specifically sorghum flour, but I did find that GF all-purpose flour at Harris Teeter, which contains sorghum, plus some other flours AND starch. Also with some googling, I discovered that 1/2 T of egg replacement + 2 T of water equals one egg. (As a side note, this was — to my recollection — my first time ever making coffee. Good thing I have a coffee maker for when I have guests, ha!) So my list of ingredients for the cupcakes came out to be:

3/4 c GF AP flour
1/4 c unsweet cocoa powder
1/2 c cane sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1/2 c warm coffee
2-ish Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp rice vinegar

Cupcakes ready for the oven Half dozen + 1 to taste :)

The cupcakes came out perfect! They smelled absolutely amazing, and looked good too, with such pretty domes. The frosting on the other hand…

I didn’t make too many changes here, just used regular butter instead of vegan margarine, & regular vanilla instead of bourbon vanilla. And halved it:

4 Tbsp butter
1-2 oz cold coffee (1 oz = 1/8 cup)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp instant espresso
2 cups powdered sugar

And I mixed. And I mixed. And I mixed. My frosting was still way to liquidy. So I kept adding more powdered sugar a bit at a time & mixing some more until I felt like I’d added so much extra I’d get diabetes from just looking at the frosting. And then I refrigerated it overnight.

Frosting is awfully drippy

I’d even gotten a pastry bag & tips for fancy decorating. But when I attempted, the frosting just went pthhhhhht.

Another case of looking terrible but tasting amazing Up close & personal with the ugly cupcake

A mess to eat & ugly to look at. But they passed my taste test at least! Anyone know what I did wrong with the frosting?

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Adventures in Cooking: Apple sharlotka

The title should really read Failures in Cooking, because that’s what this was. An absolute failure. I didn’t even take any pictures.

(My dinner was tasty, though. Here’s what that looked like:

Basically, everything with fresh dill.)

So. Back to dessert. I was using this recipe for Apple sharlotka from the lovely Deb of Smitten Kitchen. I always leave some margin of error with my cooking, since everything’s usually an experiment, and i’ve never had problems with Deb’s recipes before. I know I did something wrong, i’m just not quite sure what.

Everything was going well up until the baking part. In the oven for the requisite 60 minutes, then I pull it out and… there’s still liquidy parts at the bottom. Um, ok. I start putting it back into the oven to bake for additional 10 minute intervals. After FOUR of those (yup, that’s another 40 minutes), it still isn’t done and now the top is completely burnt. This is when I give up. Another time, perhaps after I invest in an oven thermometer…

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Adventures in Cooking: Carrot & Cilantro soup

Snagged this recipe from one of my mom’s Country Living magazines. I don’t really read the rest of the them, but man do they have some tasty-sounding recipes!

The ingredients

This one turned out as tasty as it sounded, though I have a couple of tips.

1. You see there in that list of ingredients where it says “1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed”? You can buy them at the grocery store 2 ways: still in seed form, or already crushed for you. On my groc list, all I wrote was ‘coriander seeds,’ so I got the whole ones. For the love of all that is good and holy, get the pre-crushed ones! They are impossible to crush. I slaved over crushing mine, with every tool I could come up with (back of a spoon, base of my knife, flat blade of the knife) and what you see in the picture above is the result. Not really that crushed. So every now and then in my otherwise pureed soup, i’d get something crunchy. And sometimes little pieces would get stuck in my teeth, like popcorn kernels. Not Optimal.

Saute the onions Simmering2. Maybe my food processor just sucks, but… a blender definitely works better to get your carrot/onion mix all nice and pureed.

2.5. I’m not very good at chopping cilantro, so I went ahead & pureed that in the blender too. I feel like this was a Good Decision.

Ready to eat!

Bonus, this soup is super-healthy too! Good for a night light soup/sandwich meal. I still have a container of this waiting for me in my freezer too. I’ll have to let y’all know how it keeps.

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Adventures in Cooking: Thanksgiving Pecan Pie

For Thanksgiving, my dad requested pecan pie. Mom was just going buy one until I swooped in & saved the day said I had made one before. Which I (of course) did not save the recipe for.

After doing a bit of internet searching, I settled on this recipe for Southern Pecan Pie. I didn’t want any fancy variations, and I definitely didn’t want to have to roast the pecans (I did this for my first pecan pie, and it was a big fat PAIN.)

Eggs don't get any fresher than this. I said *consummate* V's! Prebaked crust

I was pretty sure I should pre-bake the crust, so the bottom wouldn’t be this soggy sugary mess. So I followed the directions on the pre-made crust box & poked a bunch of holes in the base and sides. The first iteration (which i’m not showing here) I didn’t poke all the way through, and the crust puffed up with this giant air bubble during the baking. (I tried to break the bubble & ended up breaking the whole crust in the process. That one went in the trash. I’m convinced this is why the company puts two crusts in the box.) Try #2 I made sure that my poked holes went completely through the dough. This baked really nicely, but became a problem later on when I baked the pie — the liquid filling bubbled through these holes & adhered the crust to the pan. Clearly there’s not optimal method here. Anyone know any other ways to successfully pre-bake a crust & avoid these issues?

Pecans, waiting for the sugar filling Anything with corn syrup is just very unwieldy Don't want to burn the edges

The rest of the pie came together pretty easily, apart from the fact that corn syrup is really really sticky and somehow manages to get over everything no matter how hard you are trying to be clean. Since I pre-baked the crust, I covered up the edges when baking the rest of the pie, so they wouldn’t get burnt.

Smells so good!

It was a bit of a trial getting the slices out of the pan, but the finished product was way better than any store-bought pie. YUM-O!

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Adventures in (Growing &) Cooking: Tomato Pasta

The tomato plants were an impulse buy at the grocery store, and a bit of an experiment. As in “let’s see if I can keep these alive long enough for them to even product anything.”

Then they went from this:

Tomatoes, growing

to this:

Tomatoes, all grown

and finally became this:

Tomato Pasta

This is me, who has a strong penchant for killing anything green. I have GROWN VEGETABLES, and then COOKED A MEAL WITH THEM. Understatement of the century, I was excited about this.

What I did:

  1. Boil water & cook up some whole-wheat linguine.
  2. Heat up oil for sauteeing. Minced garlic goes in first, stir around for a couple minutes, until just brown. Diced purple onion goes in next, sautee a few more minutes, until onions are translucent. Tomatoes go in last, along with all their juicyness. Don’t cook too long after this, or the tomatoes get too soft.
  3. Add the cooked pasta & get it all good & mixed together.
  4. Season: crazy salt, pepper, oregano.

This is just what I had on hand, I think it would be tasty with any other veggies you’d care to sautee up.

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