Homemade Pumpkin Puree

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With fall in full motion and holidays knocking on our doors, some of my favorite things to make are pumpkin flavored treats.  Not only are they the trending foods for fall, but pumpkin adds moisture and delicious flavors to almost any dish.  Yet, the only way I’ll make anything with pumpkin is with my own pumpkin puree.  It can be time consuming to make your own puree; however, you gain the benefits of fresh, non-preservative puree–making your dishes that much better.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. You’ll cut the pumpkin into even pieces.  I usually do four because of the size of
    the pumpkin.
  2. Pie pumpkins are the pumpkins used for pureeing.  They are sweeter and
    puree smoother.
  3. Be sure to remove the entire inside gunk and seeds from the pumpkin.
  4. Cook in a 400 F oven until tender.  They should pierce easily with a fork–usually
    45 minutes.
  5. Let the pumpkin cool be handling it.  The skin will be easier to remove.
  6. The skin should peel off easily after being cooked.  Be sure to remove all of the skin before pureeing.
  7. I chop the cooked pumpkin into even pieces to puree easier.
  8. The puree will be a bright orange–different from canned pumpkin–because it lacks
    the preservatives.

pumpkinpureeWith my two pie pumpkins I was able to make 4½ cups of puree.  Since most recipes call for anywhere between ½ and ¾ cup, you should be able to make quite a few recipes to wow friends and family until the season ends.  If you need extra help and detailed pictures, The Pioneer Woman provides excellent description.

Try your hand at least once at making and using your own puree and you’ll never go back to canned goods.  Used sparingly, you can make your puree last until the following year or stalk up on pumpkins and double the amount.  It can easily freeze and last for up to a year.

Enjoy these tricks for an delicious treat.  Leave a comment with your favorite pumpkin recipes.  Follow my Pinterest for more recipes to come.  Check back again on Wednesday for more tips and tricks from The Cooking Bug.

Pumpkin Pie Spiced Popcorn with White Chocolate Drizzle

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I love fall.  The smells, the colors and the popular pumpkin pie spice make the season worth waiting for.  With holiday parties right around the corner, this pumpkin pie spiced popcorn with white chocolate drizzle will be a winner.  There is no other recipe I have loved more than this popcorn.  You’ll want to have a party or some kind of event to bring the popcorn to because it is like crack cocaine–sweet and addicting.

Every holiday season, I buy pre-packaged, overpriced popcorn for my dad and relatives.  This year I’ll be making my own.  Not only is this popcorn deliciously addicting, but it is simple and exciting.  I never realized how simple and easy making flavored popcorn could be.  While it may take time to cook it, the caramelization that you obtain is the topping to a wonderful gift!

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. I used one full bag of SmartPop! popcorn instead of popping my own kernels.  It is only 35 calories a cup and so much tastier.
  2. Instead of corn syrup, I used water and sugar.  Since I used Truvia, it came to be ¼ cup sugar and 1/8 cup water.
  3. You can use the spices listed or just use all spice in substitution.  Be sure to taste the sauce to accommodate those seasoning substitutions.
  4. Halving the caramel in the mixing process allows for all the popcorn to be covered evenly.
  5. Cooking the popcorn in the oven creates a caramelization with the sauce.
  6. Tossing the popcorn is important to keep the popcorn from creating clumps and burning.  Slow and steady wins the race.  It may be time consuming, but higher temperatures will burn your treats.pumpkinpiespicedpopcorn
  7. White chocolate is temperamental, so be sure to microwave it in small increments to prevent burning it.  Continuously stir it to keep it from clumping.
  8. To create the drizzle effect, scoop white chocolate on a spoon and use your finger.  Swiftly shake the spoon and your finger back and forth.  If you create a clump, separate the pieces.
  9. The recipe created about 3 full gallon bags
    of popcorn.

For a matter of $10 you just supplied your entire office, family, friends and holiday parties with a delicious and exciting gift.  You can marvel people with your skills.  Family and friends won’t believe you made the tasty treat.  Pumpkin pie is the taste and the caramel sauce topping is the smell of fall.  There is no other winner than this new favorite recipe.  Just be warned that you’ll gain about 5 pounds just staring at it, so keep to the tips I mentioned above.

Leave a comment with your favorite fall recipes.  Follow my Pinterest for more recipes.  Check back again tomorrow for an extra trick & treat from The Cooking Bug.

Jambalaya

We’re throwing a little healthy Louisiana your way this week with a Jambalaya from Jillian Michaels.  Jambalaya originated in the Caribbean Islands.  The Spanish culture mixed with the native foods created what is known as Jambalaya closely related to the saffron colored paella cousin found in Spanish cuisine.  Jambalaya is traditionally made in three parts, with meats and vegetables, and is completed by adding stock and rice.  The most common is Creole jambalaya (also called “red jambalaya”).  First, meat is added to the trinity of celery, peppers, and onions; the meat is usually chicken and sausage such as Andouille or smoked sausage.  Next, vegetables and tomatoes are added to cook, followed by seafood.  Rice and stock are added in equal proportions at the very end.  The mixture is brought to a boil and left to simmer for 20 to 60 minutes (with infrequent stirring) to develop flavor.  Some versions call for the jambalaya to be baked after cooking all the ingredients.

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The recipe today is inspired by Jillian Michael’s recipe in her book, Making the Cut.  It calls for 1½ cup peppers (mixed colors), 7 oz turkey kielbasa, 1 chicken breast, onions, pepper, red chili flakes, ½ tsp ground thyme, 32 oz chicken stock, 17 oz canned diced tomatoes with juice, shrimp, 1½ cup long grain rice, hot sauce, 1 tbsp olive oil, and 1 cup water.

In a Dutch oven add olive oil, chicken, peppers, onion, and turkey kielbasa to cook for about 5 minutes.  Next, add your rice, stirring constantly for about 1 minute before adding seasonings and liquids.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Cover and let it sit for 15 minutes, stirring infrequently.  Spoon into a dish with a dash of hot sauce and enjoy!

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Dice the peppers and onion finely so that they cook through with the time limit.
  2. Use a variety of colored peppers to add brightness to the dish.  Each pepper has a different taste, so mix it up.
  3. Dice the chicken breasts to allow even cooking.  Slice the turkey kielbasa into coin sized bites.
  4. You can use long grain rice, brown rice, or minute rice just make sure to use the amount listed or reduce the liquid amount.
  5. I left the shrimp out and cooked them separately so that the dish could be stored longer in the refrigerator or freezer.
  6. Adding the hot sauce individually allows for each person to individualize the meal and spice profiles.
  7. Let the ingredients sit for the full 15 minutes.  The process allows for the rice to absorb the liquid, flavors to develop, and the liquid to reduce down.
  8. You can add celery to the dish for an added crunch without adding tons of calories.

The dish is flavorful, healthy, and a great way to enjoy jambalaya on a cold, winter day.  Who knew that Louisiana cooking could be made healthier?!  Try out the recipe and make your personalized touches.  Bring some southern cooking into your home in this healthy dish.

Leave a comment with your flavor ideas.  Follow my Pinterest for more recipes to try.  Check back again next Wednesday for more recipes from The Cooking Bug.

Pineapple Coconut Bars

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We all need a Hawaiian get-a-way or a day at the beach this summer.  These pineapple coconut bars are an Island adventure for your kitchen.  I was inspired to make lemon bars for work, but wanted to add a twist.  After the summer sun that has skyrocketed Arizona heat, a taste of an imaginative vacation is all I need.

Normal lemon bars are usually graham cracker crusts layered with a gooey, lemon center and topped with powdered sugar.  These pineapple coconut bars are a play at each topping.  While the original recipe of inspiration called for raspberry preserve, I swapped them out for pineapple.  I decided to take a whole Island theme to fit with
summer vacations.

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Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. You can use any type of preserve that you want paired with coconut.  My suggestions are pineapple, apricot, or raspberry.
  2. Use a food processor to mix the flour and butter.  A food processor is able to grind the butter up and create the crumb texture.
  3. After adding the water slowly, the crust should not be crumbly, it should be processed enough to form a dough and easily spread in an un-greased in one piece.
  4. The eggs will be frothy and bubbly after 30 seconds on high.
  5. Slowly add sugar so that the eggs do not seize up and they incorporate evenly.
  6. Spread as much preserve as you’d like onto the top of the bars.  The more you add the thicker your center will become.
  7. It will take about 10-15 minutes on high for the mixture to become thick and a pale yellow.  Test the thickness with the tip of a spoon.  As soon as you can’t see the spoon tip, you’ll know that the mixture is thick enough.pineapplecoconutbars3
  8. Add the coconut flakes in batches so that you can stir them easier.  I used about a bag and a half
    of coconut.
  9. Let the bars sit after cooking to solidify and hold their shape when cutting into them.

Take them to work or a party with friends.  Everyone will enjoy a taste of vacation with these sweet island treats.  Try different variations to see which one you enjoy best.  Add different toppings to replace the coconut or add nuts to the filling.  There are numerous ideas that can work to please your taste buds.

Leave a message with which flavors you like best.  Follow my Pinterest for more delicious recipes.  Check back next Wednesday for more tips and tricks from The Cooking Bug.

Pumpkin Spiced Snicker Doodles

pumpkinsnickerdoodles2Cookies made healthy is a hard thing to imagine, but SkinnyTaste does it again with these sugary babies.  Snickerdoodles are my favorite cookie, but adding a pumpkin flavor is making them top shelf cookie: pumpkin spiced snickerdoodles The whole-wheat flour makes them lighter than regular cookies without sacrificing flavor.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. The recipe makes 42 bite sized cookies or 21 regular sized cookies.  Just keep in mind to adjust times for making larger cookies.
  2. Be sure to use softened butter to make a dough rather than a short bread based cookie.
  3. You can use cream of tartar and baking soda or substitute both with baking powder based on which you have on hand.
  4. Using whole-wheat flour makes the cookies healthier than using all purpose, but both will work in the recipe.
  5. I used Truvia.  With truvia, you can use half the amount of sugar because it is twice as sweet as regular sugar.
  6. The dough should be easily formed into small balls by compacting it.  If it is too sticky, you need to add more flour.snickerdoodlepumpkin
    7.  Roll the dough evenly in the sugar to create that snicker doodle look and flavor.
    8.  I used parchment paper sprayed with pam instead of a mat.  You just don’t want it on the cookie sheet because the bottoms will burn
    and stick.
    9.  Press them down with a fork so that they cook evenly and form a cookie shape.
    10.  Since they are so small they only take ½ the time (about 5-7 minutes).  Keep that in mind so they don’t burn.

Again, I made these for friends and they had a hard time keeping their paws off.  Fall in season and pumpkins everywhere they are a great fall and Halloween treat.  The bite-sized pieces make them the perfect amount of sugar to keep you satisfied without bulging that waistline.

Leave a comment with your favorite pumpkin ideas.  Follow my Pinterest for more recipes.  Be sure to check back again next Wednesday for more tips and tricks from The Cooking Bug.

Pesto, Shrimp and Tomato Cauliflower Pizza

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If you haven’t switched to cauliflower pizza crust, then stop and read this blog! <–

Now, that you’ve decided that cauliflower pizza is delicious and nutritious, we can begin.  We’re taking that “normal” cheese pizza to a whole new level.  I got the inspiration to make this pesto, shrimp and tomato cauliflower pizza after having made the pesto sauce and falling in love.  I replaced the tomato sauce of regular pizza with pesto and topped it with shrimp, sun-dried tomato and a Fontina-Gruyere cheese mixture.

Together these ingredients make the perfect piece of pizza without the unhealthy grease and delivery prices. One pizza or head of cauliflower will make four servings at around 400 calories.  You can cut the pieces in half for 200 calories for a wine and pizza night or
football appetizer.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Unlike the first time I made the cauliflower crust, I cooked it for about 20-25 minutes the first round.  The longer it bakes the sturdier and crispier the crust will be.
  2. I spread the pesto (about 4 tbsp) evenly along the crust leaving a 1/2 inch gap along
    the edges.
  3. I then added diced shrimp (fresh or frozen) and sun-dried tomatoes.  You can add as much or as little of these ingredients as needed.
  4. I used a 1/2 cup of cheese as with any pizza is traditional.  You can mix and match the cheese to your liking.  I would suggest keeping away from the Parmesan types of cheeses because those flavors are already incorporated into the crust.
  5. Cook the pizza for an additional 8-10 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden.
  6. Don’t freak out when you see the olive oil from the pesto dripping off the sides.  It will help crisp the crust and disperse flavor.

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Allow your guest to melt under the flavors bursting out of the pizza.  They’ll be surprised to hear the crust is cauliflower.  You’ll be the chef of the century and win recipe of the year awards for the pizza party delight.

There are a lot of links so be sure to check them all out above.  Leave a comment with how the pizza went over in your household.  Follow my Pinterest for more delicious recipes.  Check back next Wednesday for more tips and tricks from The Cooking Bug.