Thursday, October 6, 2011

Since I was here last I decided to be a flapper for Halloween. I'm SO excited to be competing in a costume contest for the first time ever. The Rooster will be Mayhem, of the AllState insurance commercials. Hopefully I can create a realistic looking bruise with make-up. I'd rather not give him a black eye the traditional way.

Tonight I made pumpkin spice lattes for me and the Rooster. I love Starbucks pumpkin spice, so when my mom sent me this link I hardly dared to hope anything I made at home would measure up. I couldn't have been more wrong! It's a simple recipe. Milk, strong coffee (I used instant decaf), pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, and sugar all go in a small pot on the stove.

Heat until steamy, wisk to create frost, and serve! I didn't achieve much froth, but I'm ok with that.
 (There are rules in our house about mugs. The Big Ben mug belongs to the Rooster. The Eiffel Tower mug belongs to me. I get upset when he uses my mug.)
I topped with whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel. Can you say YUM? I sure did! The pumpkin flavor was so rich and delicious, way better than fake syrup. I used half the amount of vanilla called for, mostly because I'm almost out. My dear readers, you have to try this one! If you listen to nothing else I tell you for the rest of pumpkin month listen to me this once: make this latte. One thing I discovered in this process, there's a reason the baristas at Starbucks keep the caramel in those squeezy bottles. It's impossible to drizzle caramel on a drink with a spoon. Not that I was upset about the big lump of caramel that fell in my drink, it just wasn't as pretty as it could have been.

Earlier this week I tried Target's store brand (Archer Farms) Pumpkin Pie yogurt. Delicious! I was originally under the impression that all Archer Farms items were organic, but that's not true. This was lowfat yogurt, it may have had some artificial sweetener, I didn't study the label. It was a lovely seasonal treat. Their Vanilla Maple was good too. The Rooster wasn't impressed with the Apple Cider flavor, and I'll be trying Apple Cobbler tomorrow. They were a great deal at $.50 each.

Have you started decorating for fall yet?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Oatmeal & Yogurt, plus a Dream Come True

Leftover pumpkin is just a delicious something or other waiting to happen. I'm happy to just add a little Splenda, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and warm it up in the microwave. All the delicious flavor of pumpkin pie with so few calories, it's ridiculous! Try it, really, you'll love it. Instead of my basic, though, I went for pumpkin oatmeal. YUM! I didn't have time to cook up a batch of steel cut oats last night, and the poochies were in rare form this morning, so I had to dump the pumpkin in a bowl and grab a packet of instant to cook up at work. The instant was maple & brown sugar, and it really complimented the pumpkin perfectly, while the pumpkin tamed the somewhat overboard sweetness of the oatmeal. Just what I wanted for breakfast on this chilly autumn morning!

Lunch brought yogurt plus pumpkin apple butter. I was a little concerned about the interaction of my Trader Joe's European Style Organic yogurt, which is a bit thinner than traditional plain yogurt, and the apple butter. I've become addicted to plain yogurt plus frozen fruit plus honey. To me, it just tastes better. It works best with Greek yogurt, because as the fruit defrosts you get a lot of natural juices flowing, and I think the fruit pulls some of the moisture out of the yogurt somehow. With traditional yogurt the result can be pretty thin. So when I added the pumpkin apple butter (not frozen) to the European yogurt, I was afraid it would end up being something I could sip through a straw. Not so! It stayed thick, and the butter gave it such a rich flavor; it was lovely.

Now, as I've mentioned, I LOVE Halloween. I don't know if that's emphatic enough. I luuuuuurrrrrrrrvvvvvvve Halloween! It's just so much fun! And I've always dreamed that my house would be the house that every kid looked forward to visiting on Trick or Treat night. Just slightly creepy, but mostly fun and over the top. Maybe a cauldron full of dry ice, definitely some spider webs on the porch (because obviously in this fantasy I live in a house with a huge wrap around porch), Rooster lurking somewhere dressed like a vampire/Frankenstein's monster/mummy to scare the older kids, and pumpkin sculptures in the yard. Well, when I opened the 2011 Halloween issue of Martha Stewart and saw her version of my little dream, I almost got choked up! It's exactly what I want my someday house to look like. Glowing windows, spider webs and pumpkin towers on the porch, and eyes peering out between the porch railings. Go out and look at a copy. I can't tell you how much I want to work my way up to something like that. When I do, you're all invited!

Now go eat something pumpkin!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Month of Pumpkin

Before I get to my main post, I want to say that I've been meaning to post about Liam's birthday, but I'm not sure what I want to say yet. I will get to that eventually. 

Fall is one of my favorite times of year for so many reasons. My birthday is at the end of October, which lends a feeling of excitement and expectation, and I've always loved Halloween. This year I'm actually enjoying our first cool snap, since our fireplace is in working order. We had a fire last night and tonight, and I just can't get enough.

The crackling sound is so soothing, the smell is delicious, and our living room is nice and toasty warm!

Back to fall. I love carving pumpkins, decorating the house (a la Martha Stewart), coming up with a costume, and the food! Oh, how I love pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread... If you put pumpkin in it, I'll probably eat it. I even convinced the Rooster to make Pumpkin Chili once, and it was delicious! So when I found out that Gooseberry Patch was offering an entire cookbook of Pumpkin recipes free for download to Kindle, I snatched it up. As I paged through the recipes I thought about the movie Julie & Julia, and how that blogger got her start cooking her way through Julia Child's The Art of French Cooking, and I thought "what if I made one of these recipes every day in October?"

And so, my Month of Pumpkin was born. Due to my 30th birthday this month I'm forgoing my annual Halloween party, and I've taken a season off from the chorale I normally sing with, so I don't have as much to take up my time. The perfect opportunity! Unfortunately, I developed a nasty ear infection in the last few days of September, and on October 1st I was not exactly up for cooking.

This afternoon I felt much better, so I went right ahead and knocked out two recipes. First, I whipped up a batch of pumpkin pie spice. Yeah, yeah, easy stuff. I could have just bought some, but why bother when I already have all of the required spices in my cabinet? Besides, there was a recipe for it in the book. Easily accomplished. Besides, the next recipe called for it.

Next, I set out to make Pumpkin Apple Butter—two things I love combined, and the recipe seemed pretty simple. I peeled some MacIntosh apples, which are my fave for pie, so I thought they'd work for butter.

Then I cored and grated them. If I had it to do over I'd run them through the food processor until they were like applesauce. We'll get to that part later.

Then I measured out the pumpkin (thanks to Mama-hen for finding it, since there was none to be had in Leola), apple juice,

pumpkin pie spice, and brown sugar (dark).

It all went into a medium pot.
I brought it to a boil, and then turned it down to simmer and prepared to wait 1.5 hours for it to be done. As the first hour went by I started to wonder if I had done something wrong. I used my box grater to grate the apple, but I guess it was more of a shred. The apple didn't break down the way I expected. So when it looked like this after the full cooking time,

I dumped it into the food processor and blended it to a lovely velvety consistency.

I put it back on the stove to try to cook a little more liquid out of it, and once it cooled I spread some on bread and it is delicious!

The pumpkin and apple play well together, giving it a sweet, caramel-like flavor. Perfect for stirring into oatmeal, spreading on toast, or... well, that's pretty much all I can think of at the moment, but it's darn good. I plan on trying it mixed with yogurt tomorrow, as an experiment. I'll let you know how it goes.