Saturday, November 27, 2010

pie in the sky

I love pie crust. I'll come right out there and say it. Wish it weren't so, but it's just the way it is. I can't train myself to unlove pie crust. The kind made with 100% butter and boasting layers as thin as snowflakes that hang together in that wonderful pastry-dough sort of way. I usually decide to just get rid of all but a thin layer of that extemporaneous filling and focus on the all-important crust.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I also do this with burritos when made with a particularly delicious tortilla. If I'm getting a little full, out goes the filling and onward with that tortilla. I'm just saying.

In honor of the eating season that comes with our glorious holidays we bring you a recipe that will release any crust lover from their vice, should they choose. This recipe is for a pumpkin flan with crunchy sugared pecans, and that pretty much explains the dessert. What it doesn't do is tell you how wonderfully flavored the pumpkin custard is with the time-honored flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and how well it mingles with the sweet bite of the caramelized sugar that is found in flan. The thought of crust evaporates without so much as a sputter. This is a treat without need of a shoulder to lean on. And it is decadently gorgeous in presentation--a humble show-stopper.

As a side note, it is nonfat (except for the pecans which can be omitted if desired, but please don't desire this!) and cholesterol free. But go ahead and scoot such thoughts serious, ba-humbug thoughts from your mind. After your first bite you won't believe it anyway.

We hope you all had a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving--now on to the merriest of Christmases.

Pumpkin Flan with Sugared Pecans

1/2 cup sugar
2 cups egg substitute or egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
2 3/4 cups nonfat evaporated milk
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 Tbs sugar

In a skillet melt sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly, until golden brown and completely liquid. Pour into 9-inch cake pan or baking dish that is about 2 inches deep. With the back of a spoon, quickly spread the caramelized sugar evenly over bottom of pan and set aside. As it cools you will hear the sugar make cracking sounds. This is normal, don't worry!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl combine egg substitute or whites, 1 1/2 cups sugar, salt, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, pumpkin puree, and evaporated milk. Whisk together until completely blended. Pour into sugar-coated baking dish. Set this dish inside a larger pan and place both into oven. Carefully pour very hot water into the larger pan until it reaches about 3/4 of the way up the sides of flan baking dish. Bake for about 1 hour or until knife inserted into center of custard comes out clean. Remove flan dish from oven and allow water pan to cool completely before removing from oven.

For sugared pecans: In a small skillet combine pecans and sugar. Stir constantly until sugar melts and pecans are toasted. Turn out onto foil to cool. Set aside.

Refrigerate flan overnight or until completely chilled, at least 8 hours. When ready to serve, run a sharp knife around edge of the flan. Place a larger, rimmed serving dish over the top of the flan dish and quickly invert. The flan will slowly loosen and rest on the serving dish. The sauce made from the caramelized sugar will flow over the surface of the flan.

Before serving, sprinkle sugared pecans over flan. To serve, slice in wedges and top with nonfat whipped topping if desired. Serves 10 to 12.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

falling for fall

What to do with a bountiful harvest of yellow crook neck squash and a husband who is way less than eager about having it for dinner? That was my dilemma the other day as I gathered a small part of my incredibly huge yield of this golden vegetable from my garden. Besides finding this a delicate and delicious summer vegetable, I have always enjoyed its shape, reminding me of part of a pretty yellow paisley design.

This year we planted our garden for the second season. Having been rather successful in our efforts last year, we approached this growing season with great enthusiasm. Unfortunately, Mother Nature wasn’t on her best behavior and the rain and cool weather persisted into early July, resulting in a stingy growing season. Our tomatoes totally flunked and our corn had to go in so late, that we are going to have to be satisfied with harvesting corn stalks for fall decorations. None of those succulent, tender ears that leave us salivating just at the mere thought.

However, one of the surprise stars of this year's harvest was my hearty and abundant crooked neck squash! In spite of the short season, those vines blossomed and produced many, many pretty yellow paisley shaped vegetables.

Last year, what looked like some lovely squash of the same variety, turned out to be yellow GOURDS! It was actually pretty embarrassing, since I discovered it after I had shared a basketful or two with friends. I learned it only upon trying to prepare some for our own table. Not my proudest moment as a cook or gardener as I had to get out my cleaver and deliver a hearty karate chop to pierce the tough exterior, only to find nothing fit to eat inside!

As I looked at my tender, honest-to-goodness squash last week, I was determined to find a preparation that would make my husband’s mouth water and demand a second helping. Surveying the basket of veggies I had brought up from the garden, I began to get a vision of a successful combination that would be flavorful enough to be irresistible. There in my basket along with the squash, were shiny dark green bell peppers and beautiful oval purple onions. Outside on my patio I perused my happy, healthy little herb garden. The basil and oregano just begged to combine with my basket of yummy garden treasures, and with a few snips I was ready to take on the challenge. The following recipe is what I came up with, and wonder of wonders, I was rewarded with his compliments and that request for a second serving. I had won him over.

Encouraged, I prepared it again a few days later, this time for other guests, and met with the same happy results. So, even if you have to get your vegetables from the produce department or your local Farmers' Market, this is a tasty, flavorful way to enjoy the late summer's harvest.

Warm Orzo Veggie Medley

1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups crook neck squash, coarsely chopped ( You may substitute green or yellow zucchini if you wish.)
1 cup green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dry)
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon Spike (found in spice section of most grocery stores) or other seasoning salt
3 cups cooked orzo pasta
2 cups diced tomatoes
¼ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted (optional)
3 to 4 cups baby spinach leaves

Spray large skillet with cooking spray. Add olive oil. Over medium high heat, sauté onion, squash and bell pepper till slightly softened (4-5 minutes). Add herbs, pepper, salt, Spike or seasoning salt,orzo, pine nuts and diced tomatoes. Toss together and heat until tomatoes are just warmed.

Line a wide shallow serving dish with a generous layer of spinach leaves and pile the orzo-vegetable mixture
on top. Serve immediately, making sure to scoop up spinach with the vegetables. You can make a dinner entrée out of this by adding sliced, grilled chicken on top.

Serves 6 or more, depending on whether it is served as a side or an entrée.

My other bumper crops are pumpkins and spaghetti squash. Stay tuned for some more warm, cozy autumn offerings from my garden harvest!

Stay tuned for a yummy fall dessert we're cooking up....

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

what's on tv

We've been visiting our local morning news shows! You can click below to see Janelle on Studio 5. Alice was on A.M. Northwest this morning in Portland, Oregon, and we will have her segment posted shortly.

We are now back to our blog and another yummy recipe is in the works and coming your way tomorrow!

For those who have asked how to get their hands on Simply Deliteful, you can click on the link at the top of the blog. Thanks everyone!