My quest for awesome things to do with pumpkin puree continues!

Most of my life, I thought I didn’t like bread pudding.  I think it’s because any time I came across it, it always involved raisins (yuck!) and some sort of liqueur.  Plus, as a kid, if a dessert didn’t have chocolate, I wasn’t really interested.  Bread pudding just seemed weird and unpalatable and was moved to the recesses of the dessert-possibilities area of my brain.

A couple of years ago, I was at a dinner where one of the proffered desserts was a black and white bread pudding.  They were little ramekins with a fluffy, creamy yellow cake and inside, molten dark and white chocolate sauces.  *This* was bread pudding?  This was… amazing!  The texture was lovely, the flavors rich and intense.  It was something I would actually choose if I had other options.  Sold!

Making this dessert at home, though, never happened until recently.  I never had a whole loaf of day-old bread hanging around, or the necessary staple ingredients, or a good recipe, etc. etc.  Completely randomly, I came across some recipes for Pumpkin Bread Pudding.  Would it be texturally palatable?  Would it be the right sort of flavor?  Given that the other new things I’ve tried with pumpkin have been a success, signs pointed to “yes.”  I chose a basic recipe, from The Joy of Baking, then bought a loaf of Italian bread to keep on the counter for a day or two.

Oh. My. WOW.  This was so good!  Not too sweet, so it’s not overwhelming when combined with the super-sugary toffee sauce.  I’d never had or made toffee sauce before, and it was easy.  The whole thing was really easy.  The most labor- and mess-intensive part was preparing the bread.  I removed the crusts, because I like a creamy pudding;  leaving the crusts on will make the pudding more chewy.  You can do whichever suits you.  I also used Egg Beaters, about 2/3-C, in place of the 2 eggs+1 yolk, and added a good pinch of nutmeg to the spices.

Get an 8×8 brownie pan and let’s get going!

Ingredients:

  • 5 C day-old bread, crusts removed or left on, cubed
  • 2 large eggs + 1 yolk
  • 3/4 C pumpkin puree
  • 1-1/2 C half-and-half
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 C light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For the toffee sauce:

  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1/4 C heavy cream
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350; place rack in center.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, pumpkin, half & half, butter, sugar, vanilla, spices, and salt.
  • Add the bread cubes, and toss to coat well.  Make sure that all of the pieces get nice and soaked.
  • Place the bread in an ungreased 8×8 pan, and bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.
  • An option is to put the plain bread in the pan, pour over the custard mixture, toss really well, and bake the whole thing for 35 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.  Silky custard FTW!

To make the toffee sauce:

  • In a saucepan, bring the butter, sugar, and cream to a boil, and boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Watch the heat and make sure it doesn’t burn!  Remove from heat, and add the vanilla.  This can be made ahead of time and re-warmed.

Enjoy!

So apparently there’s a pumpkin shortage going on;  heavy rains have killed crops (and the livelihoods of many many farmers).   I wanted to get a couple of  “just in case” cans of pumpkin puree to put in the pantry, but wasn’t really expecting there to be any after the story broke last week, imagining hordes of locals rushing out to buy up all the cans available before we got there.

Well, it was obvious there had been a run on the stuff: where last week, there’d been an amply-stocked shelf of several brands of puree, and a large pyramid display fully stocked, this week there was one sad box, with a couple dozen cans, sitting on the floor.  I bought two cans, and would happily use some of it to make this next recipe again.

I’ve been getting a little bored with sweet pumpkin preparations, delicious as they are (I’ve already switched over to apple-based desserts, and will post some of those recipes when I refine them a little).  However, as with most winter vegetables, pumpkin can be really off-putting to me when done savory.  I then remembered that one of my aunts had once made butternut squash ravioli, and despite really disliking butternut squash, I enjoyed the ravioli.  Hmm, perhaps something similar could be achieved with pumpkin?

What follows is a very simple recipe from GroupRecipes for a tomato-infused ravioli with a pumpkin/ricotta filling.  While even a newbie like me could follow the recipe easily, I’m not going to lie: rolling out pasta dough by hand is a lot of work.  I couldn’t get it as thin as I really wanted it, and mangled a few edges here and there, so ended up with 22 ravioli instead of 32.  However, all of them stayed sealed and together when boiling, and they were good enough to feel really worth the effort.

That said, I really really want a pasta machine for the next time I make this.  Oh — and this is in no way a diet food.  You might call this “rich.”  I call it “wow, I felt really fat the next day.  But it was so worth it.”

For sauce, the recipe at GroupRecipes recommends a pesto, but I heartily recommend sauteeing some sage and walnuts in a few tablespoons of unsalted butter.  Sage tastes amazing with this, and the walnuts provide a contrasting texture.

Ingredients:

  • 1 C ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 C pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • another 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 C tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp water

Instructions:

  • In a small bowl, mix cheese, pumpkin, 1/2 tsp salt, and nutmeg until well-blended; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the other 1/2 tsp salt, and make a well in the center.
  • In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, tomato paste, and oil until well-blended, then pour into the well into the center of the flour.
  • Using a fork, move the flour from the sides of the bowl into the center, mixing until the dough gradually forms a ball.
  • Knead dough lightly on a floured, cloth-covered surface for 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
  • Cover and set aside to rest for 5 minutes.
  • Divide the dough into 4 equal parts.  Cover whatever dough you’re not working with.  Take one of the quarters and roll it into a 12″x10″ rectangle.
  • Drop filling on one half of the rectangle, in 4 rows of two mounds each, 1-1/2″ apart.
  • Use a pastry brush and water to moisten all of the edges of the dough and the spaces between the mounds of filling.
  • Fold the rest of the dough over and press down all the edges and between the mounds of filling. Cut out ravioli with a sharp knife or pizza cutter, and seal edges with a fork.  Make sure to seal all edges well.
  • Place ravioli on a towel; let stand, turning once, 30 minutes or until dry.

To cook, bring well-salted water to a boil, add ravioli, reduce heat to medium, and cook until they pop up to the top, about 5-6 minutes.  Drain, return to the pot, add butter-sage sauce and toss to mix.

Yep, still on a pumpkin kick!  I actually adapted this from a cookie recipe at Grouprecipes.com.  According to the comments on many different pumpkin cookie recipes around the web, pumpkin cookies often tend to come out cake-like, so I experimented by making half of the batter as cookies, and the other half in a muffin tin.  The muffins came out much better, I thought, but were too heavy to really be called muffins, yet were not really cupcake-y either.  So “mini cakes” it is!

You can add chocolate chips or good chopped bar chocolate to this, if you like.  I had a bar of Green & Black’s 70% and used about a third of the bar, chopped, but 70% was really too high and clashed a little with the other flavors; 60% would be better.  (I haven’t used milk chocolate with pumpkin, but if it’s good, please let me know.)  Chopped toasted walnuts would also be a good addition.

If you don’t have Pumpkin Pie spice, use 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp allspice.  Another option with this is to add a pinch of ground cloves, too.

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 unsalted butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1 C canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt together in medium bowl.
  • Cream butter and sugar together in large bowl, then add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla, and beat until creamy.
  • Mix in the dry ingredients, 1/3 of the mixture at a time.
  • If adding chocolate or nuts, fold them in now.
  • Spoon into muffin tins and bake 20-22 minutes or until golden on top.   Enjoy!

I just made this recipe, which I found at The Post Punk Kitchen, and it was so delicious I decided to add the recipe here right away.

I’ve only made a few kinds of dal so far, but it’s really brilliant.  If you’re unfamiliar with the term “dal,”  it refers both to a type of split legume — like chana dal (chickpeas), moong dal (mung beans), and the type in this recipe, masoor dal (red lentils) — and to a stew made from these beans.  This stew is a very common dish in Indian cooking, with as many variations as there are regional and personal preferences, and it’s very nutritious and a good source of protein.  Split legumes cook a million times faster than other dried beans, essentially falling apart after half an hour of boiling and becoming a thick gravy (think split pea soup).  This makes them an ideal base for endless combinations of ingredients.

I did make a couple of small changes to the original recipe:  because I like a thick, chunky dal, I added a bunch of very small cauliflower and broccoli florets, a diced red bell pepper, and a couple of cups of curly kale.  I also added a pinch of salt after adding the tomatoes.  I kept the spices the same, but this would also be nice with a pinch of amchoor (mango powder).  Oh, and I also soaked the lentils for half an hour before cooking them.  This went great over cumin rice.

It’s worth it to take the five minutes to toast the whole spices.  Trust me!

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp peanut oil (I used vegetable oil)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated (or minced)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 C dried red lentils
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 4 cups water
  • 5 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 C chopped, lightly-packed cilantro (I used 1/2 C parsley)
  • optional ingredients: I added 1/2 C broccoli & 1 C cauliflower, chopped into tiny florets, 1 diced red bell pepper, and about 3 cups of roughly-chopped kale

Spices:

  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 2 dried red chilies (I had to substitute 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric

This recipe, with my additions, made a BIG pot of dal.  Be prepared to freeze some unless you’re feeding a big family.

Instructions:

  • Pick over the lentils, then rinse them well in a mesh sieve, place in a bowl, and cover with water.  Set aside while you prepare the other vegetables.
  • Toast the mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom pods, and whole cloves in a skillet, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.  Let them cool for a few minutes, then grind together with the chilies, cinnamon, and turmeric.
  • Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium to medium-high heat.  When hot, add the onion and saute for 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and ginger and saute 5 minutes.
  • Add the spices and salt, and saute 5 minutes.
  • Add 4 cups of water and stir.
  • Drain the lentils and add them, and the tomato paste.
  • Bring the pot to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  (I simmered 10 minutes, then added the cauliflower and broccoli, then got it back to a simmer for 10 more minutes)
  • Add the lime juice, tomatoes, and cilantro (or parsley).  (This is where I also added the pinch of salt, the red bell pepper, and the kale.)  Stir well, and add water as necessary if it’s too thick.
  • Simmer for 10 more minutes, or until lentils are completely tender.

So good!

I love baking sweet things with pumpkin puree.  I’ve been making pumpkin pancakes on Sundays, and need to do something with the rest of the puree — pumpkin breads generally take a whole 15 oz can, so it’s over to things like muffins and cookies (and more pancakes!) to use it up.   I recently did a pumpkin bread with chocolate chips, and thought how nice it would be to do muffins, so I went on a search and got to choose between a ton of different recipes, some more complex than others.

This simple  recipe comes from The Joy of Baking.  These muffins are moist and tasty and were quickly eaten!  I used a 12-cup nonstick muffin tin, no paper linings, and did not need to spray or grease the cups.  This recipe calls for sifting the dry ingredients, but I don’t have a sifter, so I whisked them, which probably doesn’t lend the same amount of fluffiness to the finished muffins — but they still came out great.   The only alteration I made was to be generous with the spices, using rounded measurements instead of flat.  Next time I’ll try sprinkling a little brown sugar on the tops of the muffins before baking, for a delicious crunchy topping.

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs ( I used 1/2 C of Egg Beaters)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 C canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 C chocolate chips (I used 60% Ghirardelli chips)

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Sift dry ingredients together in medium bowl.
  • In large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.
  • Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Beat in vanilla.
  • Alternately add 1/3 of the dry mixture and 1/2 of the pumpkin puree, mixing after each addition, beginning and ending with the dry mixture.
  • Fold in the chocolate chips.
  • Spoon into muffin tins and bake 18-20 minutes (mine needed the full 20 minutes).

Let them cool for a few minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool.  Yum!

You can buy it, but it’s easy and inexpensive to make your own.  All you need is:

  • 4 parts cinnamon
  • 2 parts ginger
  • 1 part ground cloves or allspice
  • 1 part nutmeg

I like to use allspice and then throw in an extra pinch of cloves.  Mix all spices together, and store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.  Ta-da!

I had really bad allergies today and wasn’t in much of a mood to cook, so I decided on something simple that would make use of several of the vegetables I have on hand, along with an easy-to-cook dried penne pasta.  We’ve been eating whole-wheat pasta lately, but we only had regular on hand today, so I used that.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb. tiny penne pasta with lines
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 a white onion, diced
  • 2 scallions (white and light green parts)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 stalks of broccolini, sliced (include florets and stalks)
  • 1/2 C red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cups of curly kale, washed and shredded
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • splash of good Balsamic vinaigrette
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Instructions:

  • Fill a large saucepan with water for the pasta.  Bring to a boil, and add the pasta.
  • Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  When hot, add the onion and cook until nearly translucent.
  • Add the garlic and cook 3 or 4 minutes, until soft.
  • Add the diced tomato and a pinch of salt and saute about five minutes.  During this time, the pasta should be  ready to drain, so do that and set aside.
  • Add the broccolini, red pepper, and herbs to the sauteeing mixture and cook a minute or two, until the broccoli turns a lovely bright green.
  • Add the kale in several bunches, waiting for a bunch to wilt and cook down a bit before adding the next bunch.
  • Add the splash of balsamic vinaigrette and stir well, incorporating all of the flavors, and cook for about another minute.
  • Add to the waiting pasta, stir well, and season additionally as needed.  If you have any on hand, some grated Parmesan would go lovely with this.
  • Enjoy!
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