pumpkin

I Surrender! Let’s Pumpkin Spice ALLLL the Things!

Not really. Not all of them. For instance, while I was in Seattle, I saw this:

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The gentleman behind the counter assured me it’s delicious, but I just can’t get on board. Sorry.

However, there is a time and place for pumpkin spice things, and in my humble opinion, breakfast is one of them. A pumpkin-y breakfast is a great way to start your day!

Did you know that 1 cup of mashed pumpkin contains 200% of your recommended daily Vitamin A? PLUS, it has beta-carotene, the stuff that makes it orange, which your magnificent body changes into even more Vitamin A. Know what Vitamin A is good for? Your eyeballs. Especially when they need to see in low light, say, when you’re waking up at 6am in the winter.

If you’re one of those people I don’t understand at all who gets right out of bed and goes to the gym, having some pumpkin in your post-work out breakfast can help replace some of the potassium you lost–even better than a banana!*

Anyhoots, what I’m saying is, eat some pumpkin in the morning. Do yourself a favor.

Maybe you could try these pumpkin polenta bars? They’re pretty easy to put together the night before, and one batch should last you at least a couple of days, and maybe all week, depending on how many people are eating breakfast at your place.

Equipment:
1 medium sized pot
1 saute pan
1 wooden spoon, for stirring
can opener
9×9 baking pan (you might call it a brownie pan)

Ingredients:
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups water
1 cup polenta (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 T cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar + 1 T for the topping
3/4 cup panko (I used honey panko, but regular is fine)
1/3 cup rough chopped walnuts or pecans
1 T butter + some to butter the pan

Preheat your oven to 350°. Butter the pan lightly all over the bottom and at least halfway up the sides. Set aside.

In your pot, combine the water and maple syrup and bring it to a boil. Add the polenta, sprinkling it in a bit at a time as you stir to avoid lumps.

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When all the polenta has been incorporated, lower the heat to a simmer and stir for about 10 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Add the pumpkin, cinnamon and sugar, and stir it all in well.

NOTES: 1) Polenta gets hot… like molten lava hot, so keep your heat low and don’t stand right in front of the pot or you’ll get splattered and that’s not fun. 2) Make sure you are stirring pretty constantly to avoid scorching. If you need to walk away from the pot for any length of time, go ahead and remove it from the heat until you can get back to it. The polenta will keep thickening without the heat. If you come back and it’s a little too thick, just add a little water back in to loosen it up and keep stirring until it’s cooked.

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This isn’t an overly sweet breakfast bar, but at this point you can taste the polenta and adjust the sugar and cinnamon as you see fit. Continue stirring until the polenta is thick, but not stiff. It should still be loose enough to spread into your pan.

Pour the polenta into your buttered pan and spread it around to even out the thickness. Set aside.

In your saute pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium low heat until the bubbles have subsided and it just starts to brown. Add the panko, the nuts, and the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and stir to combine with the butter. You’re basically just trying to toast the panko and the nuts slightly.

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Top the polenta with the panko mixture, and pop it into the oven for 15 minutes.

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The polenta won’t brown. You’re basically baking it to set it up so it can be cut into bars.

Take it out of the oven, let it cool, cut it into squares, and viola! Portable Pumpkin Polenta!

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*Source: Huffington Post 

I went on vacation and ate a lot and then came home and made Pumpkin Custard Pie that is so easy all of you should make one, too.

*taps the mic* this thing on?

I’m not going to make any excuses for my absence. i’ve been busy, and on holiday in Scotland. it was super duper amazing and i ate a lot of things that were very delicious…

such as this:

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and also, this (p.s. smoked haddock is delicious but it is very similar to asparagus in that your pee the next day will smell vaguely of smoked haddock.) :image

and various things such as this for dessert:

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i have lots of observations about eating out in Glasgow, and Glasgow in general, that i’m not sure i can articulate just yet. i think maybe some people still have the impression that all food in the UK is either fish and chips or boiled things. that is sooooo not the case. i had some sincerely gorgeous meals there— things i’d never had before, and things i’d definitely had before but they were prepared so simply and perfectly at these restaurants in Glasgow that it was like i’d never had them before. 

also, it was very affordable to go out and have a nice meal there. three course meals that would have cost me, at the low end, around 60 bucks here at home were typically less than £20 there (about $32; $40 with a glass of wine).  granted, i was on vacation and back in the real world i still wouldn’t be taking myself out to $40 meals every night, but i went there planning to check out lots of restaurants and i was able to eat out a lot more than i thought i could because of how (in comparison) inexpensive it was. 

at some point, hopefully soon, i’ll be able to put into words how i felt/feel about my trip, but for now i’ll just say that it was kinda magical and very hard to come home.

but now, i’m back at home, and it’s starting to be that time of year when i want to have something happening in my kitchen nearly all the time. i’ve volunteered to make all the sides for a friend’s thanksgiving dinner just because the idea of spending all day cooking sounds about as close to perfect as you can get.

i kicked off this flurry of culinary activity with something simple, but rather iconic of this time of year— the pumpkin pie. this was actually a pumpkin custard pie, which came from this recipe over at allrecipes.com. you should bookmark that recipe, because it was so easy, and if you follow the recipe, plus the author’s instructions to chill your pie crust until just before you pop the pie into the oven, you will have a delicious, creamy, crowd pleasing pumpkin pie. i made one to take to work today, and everyone who had a piece absolutely loved it. this will be my go to pumpkin pie recipe from here on out.

this might be a no brainer for other people, but it was a bit of a revelation for me to cook the pumpkin puree before adding the rest of the ingredients. you know how when you open a can of pumpkin it really doesn’t smell like much? in this recipe, you cook the pumpkin in a pot for about 10 minutes on medium heat, and within just a few minutes all those natural sugars start caramelizing and it really starts to smell all pumpkiny and wonderful. i believe it made for a much clearer pumpkin flavour in the final product.

the only substitutions i made (purely because i was just working with what i already had rather than making a special trip to the store) were to use a can of evaporated milk instead of the heavy cream, and to replace the ground ginger with the same amount of nutmeg. i will absolutely be trying the recipe as written, because i believe very strongly in really rich, creamy custards and the heavy cream would certainly make this into that, and i definitely prefer ginger to nutmeg almost every time. 

i used one of those pre-made roll-out crusts because i have zero counter space on which to roll out dough. i did get the shiny, smooth finish and creamy texture on the pie that comes from chilling the dough, but i feel like the crust was a little thin at the edges and was slightly darker than i really like. i have a pie shield, though, and i feel like using that next time will keep the crust from going too far in that direction.

i’ll repeat this— BOOKMARK THAT RECIPE! when you absolutely can’t think of what to bring to a holiday party, i promise this pie, humble though it may seem, will be one of the most popular items on the dessert table.

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