Soft Pumpkin Spice Cookies 

Call it basic if you want, but I love the wonderful Fall goodness that comes from the pumpkin spice flavor. Plus, the aroma that fills your house while you are baking anything with cinnamon and nutmeg is hard to beat. 

My mom came over for dinner the other night and I know she’s a fan of pumpkin as well, so I whipped up a batch of these cookies. I pretty much wanted to see what would happen if I added pumpkin and spices to a regular sugar cookie recipe. These turned out so soft and pillowy with a great Fall flavor anyone would love. 

Soft Pumpkin Spice Cookies

3 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated if possible

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1 cup unsalted butter, softened 

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon caramel extract (optional)

1/2 cup (canned) pumpkin puree
In a large bowl bowl, add flour, baking powder and spices. Stir with whisk to combine.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars until smooth and fluffy.

Add egg, vanilla, caramel (if using), and pumpkin and beat to combine.
Scrap down the sides of your bowl with a spatula.
While the mixer is running on low, add the flour mixture, slowly.
Mix until all of the flour is incorporated, and the mixture begins to ball up and pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

When the dough has chilled, knead the dough on a lightly floured surface into a ball. Pull off about pieces of dough and roll into balls. I used about 2” balls and pressed them with a cookie press. You could do whatever size you want to make your cookies. If you don’t have a press, you can always flatten the dough balls with the bottom of a glass. 

Bake cookies in a pre-heated, 350*F oven, on ungreased baking sheets 9-11 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies.

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Pumpkin Polenta with Seared Scallops and Sage Brown Butter 

Sometimes, when I make dinner and I’m trying something new, I make sure we have eggs or cereal on standby in case it doesn’t turn out so great. It’s happened before and I’m sure it’ll happen many times again. So goes the way of things for a curious foodie.

This dish was one of those times. I feel like I see polenta everywhere and everyone I know seems to love it. Until now, I had never had it nor attempted to make it. I know it’s a pretty healthy component to a meal, so I wanted to give a try to see if it was something we could add to our dinner repertoire. And guess what? It was actually really good!

Polenta is made from ground cornmeal. It is gluten-free (if that’s your thing), a whole grain, low in calories, and full of vitamins A and C. It is a healthy/smart carb source. And, most important, it’s yummy.

I feel like I should mention, though, that it is a bit on the bland side, so adding flavors is a MUST. I wouldn’t just whip up a batch and eat it as is. It needs cheese and butter. I know that doesn’t sound healthy, but if you make 80-90% of the meal healthy, you can splurge a little on cheese and butter. I do now have a bag of polenta so I am looking for more ways to use it. A friend of mine suggested making a batch and spreading it out on a cookie sheet. Refrigerate until solid and then cut it out and grill it. She also mentioned it is delish topped with grilled veggies or even tomato sauce.

I used Bob’s Mill polenta, which is not an “instant polenta” so I don’t know about those measurements, but what for what I used it was a ratio of 1 cup polenta to 4 cups of water and it ends up making about 3 cups prepared polenta.


This dish is a bit of a twist on the southern classic shrimp and grits because grits are very similar to polenta. I love using the scallops, but they are a bit pricey, so this isn’t something we can have often, unfortunately.

Pumpkin Polenta with Seared Scallops and Sage Brown Butter

Polenta

½ can pumpkin puree (15 oz can)

½ cup shredded parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Salt and pepper

8 scallops, cleaned and dried

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Garlic powder

½ stick unsalted butter

Sage

For the polenta: Make it according to package directions, then add the cheese, butter, pumpkin, and salt and pepper to taste.


For the scallops: make sure they are clean and dry (so they sear) and season with a little salt and pepper and garlic powder. In a skillet over medium-high heat, heat up the olive oil (just enough to coat the pan) and saute your scallops until opaque. About 5 minutes per side.

 

For the sage brown butter: remove the scallops from the pan and turn the heat down to medium. Add the butter and sage. I used dried sage because my store was out of the fresh and I didn’t feel like driving around looking for it. Use minced fresh sage, if you have it. Let the butter melt and cook in the pan. It will start to brown pretty quickly, so don’t walk away. Turn the heat off when it is browned.


Put a scoop of the pumpkin polenta on a plate, top with the scallops, and pour some of the butter sauce over the whole thing.

Enjoy! 

Send any polenta ideas my way, please! 

Pumpkin Chili

I am so impatient. It’s October but it’s still summer weather here. I need Fall! I need seasons!! Well, I can’t wait anymore. Hot weather, be damned! I needed to make some chili!

A couple years ago, some girlfriend and I got together once a month for a Foodie Club. You know? Like a book club with food and recipes. It was a lot of fun and I’ve been thinking about starting it up again. But I digress… 

I came up with this recipe for our chili themed night and it was a big hit. It’s tasty and super healthy. Only about 300 calories per serving (1cup serving) 

It makes a ton too, so lots of leftovers or even freeze it for later!! 

Now, just add this to the pumpkin everything craze!! 

Pumpkin Chili

2 pounds ground turkey (you can use beef if you want, but it will change the end calorie count)

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic minced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1/2 can (15oz) canned pumpkin

2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes

1 can kidney beans, drained

1 (12 oz) bottle of chili sauce (found next to the ketchup)


1 cup beef broth

2 Tablespoons of chili powder

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large stock pot or dutch oven, brown turkey. Just before it’s done, spread the turkey out to the edges and add a teeny bit of olive oil (“teeny” is the technical chefy term, here) if you need it for the pepper, onion, and garlic. 


I used two of my favorite kitchen short cuts here: pre-diced onions and pre-minced garlic. BIG time savers! 


Anyway, once the veggies have started softening, mix them in with the meat and add your seasonings: chili powder, pumpkin pie spice, brown sugar, and cumin. And mix well.


Then, add the rest of your ingredients: pumpkin, tomatoes, beans, chili sauce, broth.


Mix together and bring to a boil for  a minute then let simmer for about an hour. The longer this sits, the better. Just make sure to stir occasionally so it doesn’t burn on the bottom.


This is such low calorie, you can too with a little bit of cheese and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.

Now serve yourself a bowl and soak up the Fall! 

Baked Pumpkin Stuffed French Toast (Christmas Movie Series)

Over my years of watching holiday tv movies, I’ve noticed that there are pretty much two different career paths that our plucky protagonists follow in Christmas movies:

Food (this is mostly baking, but any sort of food job qualifies):

  • Recipe for a Perfect Christmas (chef and a food critic; two-for-one)
  • Christmas in Connecticut (food columnist)
  • The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (chef)
  • Matchmaker Santa (baker)
  • A Cookie Cutter Christmas (OK, she’s a teacher, but the whole thing revolves around a cookie baking competition and her love interest prides himself on his cooking abilities)
  • Let it Snow (it may be a stretch, but the woman who runs the ski lodge is always cooking something. Food does play a big role here)
  • Ice Sculpture Christmas (chef)

PR (this includes marketing and advertising as well)

  • Christmas Cupid (PR)
  • Love at the Thanksgiving Day Parade (PR)
  • 12 Wishes of Christmas (PR)
  • Fir Crazy (Marketing)
  • Window Wonderland (Marketing)
  • Let it Snow (Marketing)
  • Northpole (reporter; I only count this because when I went to journalism school, I had to take PR classes, so they are pretty intertwined)
  • Hitched for the Holidays (advertising)
  • The Santa Clause (marketing)
  • 12 Gifts of Christmas (advertising)

Sometimes, you’ll come across the ones who are working one job but dream of making it big doing something else (Holiday in Handcuffs: waitress/wanna be artist meets architect who wants his own firm; Christmas Under Wraps: doctor must work in small town, but really wants a big city job)

People who work for Corporate or in Finance are usually the scrooges: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (she gets better though), Fir Crazy, The Best Christmas Party Ever, Charming Christmas 

For this recipe, I decided to revamp a dish I created a long time ago (way before this blog). It may sound complicated, but it is so easy and really delicious!

1 8oz brick of cream cheese, softened
1/2 can pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
2 tubes of refrigerated crescent rolls
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a bowl, mix together the cream cheese, pumpkin, vanilla extract, and pumpkin pie spice.

Open the crescent tubes and roll out the triangles.

Spoon a generous amount of the filling onto the triangle and roll it up.  

Place the filled rolls into a baking dish. I used a 7×11.
In another bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. Pour over the top of the rolls. Like I said, I used a 7×11 dish. If you use a bigger one, you may want to increase the egg by 1 and the milk by about 1/2 a cup, maybe a little less.  

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. Again, if you use a bigger dish, you may want to cook it a bit less because the egg will be more spread out. Just keep your eye on it.   This was so delicious! My house was filled with smells of cinnamon and baked rolls the whole time they were in the oven. The top is nice a crusty but the inside is really soft and creamy with the filling.

Such a great holiday breakfast! Or anytime of year!

Pumpkin Penne with Pancetta 

So a few days ago, it felt like Fall. For about 5 minutes. Today, however, it was back to 88 degrees. It is supposed to be 90 on Halloween.

Ugh… If this is what people mean by “Southern California Weather” you can keep it. It was never like this growing up, so you know, global warming sucks.

Anyway, back to when it was nice and cool for a hot second. I took full advantage and made this yummy pumpkin pasta. I had the rest of the can of pumpkin that I used for the ravioli and turned it into this delicious sauce. Even though it has cinnamon and nutmeg, it wasn’t too sweet at all. It had the right amount of balance and the flavor was just warm and comforting.

Best of all, it hit the trifecta: Quick, easy, and my kids loved it! My husband even went back for a small third serving! I think it is safe to say, this was a winner.

4oz diced pancetta
1-2 cloves minced garlic1/4 of an onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon flour
1/2 can pumpkin puree
1-1/2 cups milk (you can use cream or half & half if you want)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1 cup walnuts or pecans with cinnamon and honey (optional)

In a pot, add your pancetta and a light dusting of ground cinnamon. Cook over medium heat, stirring around, until crispy. Remove the pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate and keep any fat that rendered out in the pot.

  To the rendered pancetta fat, add the garlic and onions. Saute until soft.
  Add about 1 T of flour and stir to make a little paste with the fat. You can a little olive oil if you don’t think there is enough. Stir in the pumpkin puree, milk nutmeg and cinnamon. Mix well. Let the mixture come to a high simmer and then turn the heat down to low. This should allow it to thicken up nicely. Add the parmesan cheese. Taste it to see if you need to add any salt. I added a pinch but the parmesan is pretty salty, so it’s best to wait to see what you like.
  Add your cooked penne and mix well to coat the pasta with the sauce.  In a small pan, add your walnuts or pecans. Sprinkle with a dusting of cinnamon and drizzle with a little honey. Mix well and cook until heated through. This addition is optional. I really like the nuts mixed in, but my husband said he didn’t think the dish needed them. Your choice!
  Add the nuts and the pancetta into the pasta and stir to combine.
Eat up and send me pictures of Fall… at this rate we may not get one!

Easy Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter Sauce

October 19, 2008. Seven years ago, I was walking down the aisle, ready to say “I do” to my husband. It was truly a great day that I will never forget. Our decorations were all Fall themed and it was so beautiful.

Collages

We spent a year planning the wedding. My mom and I pretty much did the planning, and my husband was all too happy to defer to us. The only thing he really cared about being part of, the only thing that was really looking forward to, was the food tasting. Unfortunately, something came up and he couldn’t even go. My maid of honor Jessica came with me and the caterer put together a box of leftovers to take home, but that wasn’t the same. The food was really good though!

One of the items we chose was a ravioli in a sage brown butter sauce. It was really delicious. In honor of our 7 year anniversary, I made my own version of this ravioli. The dish at our wedding did not have pumpkin, but I couldn’t resist adding it.

Happy Anniversary to husband. We’ve built a great life together. Here’s to the next 60 years of this crazy, chaotic, beautiful life.

1/2 can pumpkin
4oz mascarpone cheese
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 tbls shredded Parmesan cheese
Wonton wrappers (make sure you get the wonton, not the egg roll)
Unsalted butter
1 tbls fresh sage

Spoon about 1/2 can of pumpkin in a medium bowl. Make sure this isn’t pumpkin pie filling; just regular canned pumpkin.

Next, add the mascarpone cheese. You can also use cream cheese if you want.

Next, add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. I used my hand mixer to blend it together because it was much easier with the mascarpone. Plus, I really like the whipped texture it gives the filling. You can use a stand mixer or just stir it by hand if you want. Just mix it well

Stir in a little bit of shredded parmesan cheese. Just about a tablespoon will be fine since you don’t want it to overpower the other flavors. Give the filling a taste test to see if you want to add more nutmeg or cinnamon or salt. We aren’t going for pumpkin pie here, so we don’t want it too sweet.

Now, get out your wonton wrappers. Side Note: It isn’t hard to make your own pasta dough–I’ve done it a few times–but it is hard to get it as thin as you need with out a pasta maker or attachment for your mixer. I don’t have one so the easy substitution is wonton wrappers! They are the perfect stand in.

OK, back to the ravioli: Add about a tablespoon of filling to the middle. Don’t overfill it because then it will get all messed up when you boil it later. Dip your finger in water and rub along all sides.

Add a second wonton wrapper to the top and firmly seal the edges. I forgot to take a picture of the next step, but add the ravioli to boiling water to cook. Only add a few at a time. They don’t take long to cook at all, so don’t walk away. Add the ravioli and when they float to the top, they are done. Remove them right away so they don’t get mushy. It takes approximately 2 whole minutes. Alternately, you could line them in a single layer on a greased baking sheet and bake them in the oven at 375 for 10-12 minutes. I’ve never done it this way, but you can do it.

For the sauce, finely chop fresh sage. The easiest way is stack the leaves and roll them up. Cut thin slices (chiffonade), then roughly chop into small pieces. It turned out to be about 1 tablespoon. You can used dried if you want, but use about half the amount.

Add butter to a pan and let melt. Add the sage to the butter. I made 6 ravioli and used half a stick of butter. It was more than enough sauce.

Let the butter cook, stirring gently, over medium heat until it starts to brown a bit. There is a fine line between browned butter and burnt butter, so watch it and take it off as soon as it starts to turn brown. Maybe there’s a better “chef-y” way to do this, but as I am not a trained chef, this is what works for me.

Put your ravioli on a plate and top with the browned butter sage sauce and a little more parmesan. Enjoy the autumn yumminess!

This recipe makes about 20 ravioli and unless you are serving a large crowd, that is a lot of ravioli. Good thing is, you can freeze what you don’t use! Make sure you store them in a flat layer with a paper towel or something separating the layers. This way when you go to make them next time, they won’t freeze/stick together and rip apart when you try to separate them.