Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Two For One: Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice and Whats For Dinner Tonight

I was at the grocery store earlier, and Pumpkin Pie Spice was on the top of my list.
This little canister was $5.79! Yeah RIGHT.
I can make that for a fraction of the cost...and I did! And it is so overwhelmingly better than this overpriced little bottle, there is just absolutely no comparison!
I know it's not the most convenient, but grinding your own spices really is the key to success here.

If you have a spice grinder by all means, make things easy on yourself. Unfortunately mine is buried deep somewhere in our storage unit so I had to put some muscle into it. First, the easy part:

Measure dried ginger into a small bowl.

Next, grind whole cloves into the finest dust you can manage and add to the ginger.

(I have no idea why some of these photos came out sideways, and equally have no ida how to fix it, eesh!)

Now, using a Microplane (if you do not own one of these, invest now, they are a wonderful and necessary kitchen tool!), grate the nutmeg.

Last, certainly not least, and certainly most difficult...the cinnamon. I ended up using an entire stick of cinnamon, and it took forever to grate down!

Be careful when using the Microplane, I got a little careless and chipped off part of my nail polish, oops!

It was well worth the work, the smell emanating throughout the whole kitchen was so delicious, and incredibly richer with a depth of warmness that you just can't get with the bottled stuff. And did you know that spices start losing flavor and intensity as soon as they are ground? Who knows how long the pre-ground stuff has been sitting around, losing all that complexity. And they want us to pay for that?

Stepping off my apparent soapbox now...mix the 4 spices together. 

I added a mere dash of allspice and salt to bring it all together, and wooowie it's good!
My first order of business with it is Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal that I'm going to try out for breakfast tomorrow, recipe to follow!

Pumpkin Pie Spice:
Yield: 2 Tablespoons

4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
A dash of allspice, an even smaller pinch of salt.
Mix and store in an airtight container.


For dinner tonight I tried out a recipe I stumbled upon over at The Cilantropist's blog:
Sausage and Goat Cheese Pizza with Balsamic Onions and 
Fresh Figs

Oh. My Word. This recipe is going to the top of my must-have-again list! The perfect harmony of ingredients and flavors was out of this world delicious! 

First up: The original recipe calls for italian sausage, but I had a stroke of genius at the grocery store and bought this instead:

Have you ever had aidells? This chicken and apply sausage is so full of flavor it's ridiculous, and you would never know it's chicken, I promise! Best. Sausage. Ever. 
I removed the casings and crumbled it and browned it in a saute pan and set aside.

Next up: the balsamic onion and fig marmalade. I sliced up one large onion thinly... 

(seriously annoyed that some of the photos flipped...that's what you get when you upload photos to your blog app from your phone?)

...and put it in another saute pan with a tablespoon of evoo and 2 tsp. of brown sugar. If you've ever caramelized onions, it's the same idea, cook them down low and slow.

Mmm, beautiful, perfectly ripe figs! Figs have a very short season and are pretty pricey; I've found that my local asian market has the best price on figs, they were a whole dollar and a half cheaper than a regular grocery store!

Next, add the balsamic vinegar and allow the mixture to further reduce. After that the recipe called for chopping the figs and adding the onions to them and microwaving the whole thing, but I didn't like that idea so I just added the figs right into the pan and let them cook with the onions, and they came out beautifully!

I know, it's looking pretty gnarly, but it tastes (and smelled!) amazing!

Next up: assembling the pizza. 
I used this extremely delicious garlic olive oil on the crust, to help it keep moist and add extra flavor.

I took a shortcut and bought ready-made, fresh whole wheat dough and rolled it out super thin for a crispy crust. Yum! The recipe calls for slicing the goat cheese and layering it on, but I was too impatient so I just grabbed a hunk of it and crumbled it evenly over the dough.

Then I spread the onion/fig marmalade on it:

Then I sliced the figs up and put those on:

Then the cooked and crumbled sausage:

And finally I tore some sage leaves and sprinkled them on top.

I cooked it in the oven for about 15 minutes, and out came perfection!

mmMMM this was good pizza!

To go with the pizza, I made a Fall Harvest Salad. This is probably my favorite salad, the flavors are at once complex and defined, it is rich and satisfying, but the ingredients are rather light. 

The dressing is balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, dijon mustard, salt and pepper, a small minced shallot and extra virgin olive oil. SO good!

The finished salad, including slices of pear, candied pecans and shaved parmesan:


I had made a vegan Pumpkin Gingerbread Smoothie for dessert, but it didn't turn out so well, lol. Ah well, dinner was delicious and satisfying enough!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fall Flavors

I had a myriad of stacks of recipes laying all over the place; some needing a test run, some done and needing editing, some classic favorites from the past I want to re-create, recipes recipes everywhere! I'm kind of a Type A personality (my husband would laugh at the generality of that statement!), and enough was enough, I needed to get organized! I spend way too much time thinking and plotting out how best to do this (seriously, if we all stopped thinking about petty things so much and concentrated on the major issues, I'm pretty sure we would have both world peace and the cure for cancer by now! :), and finally came up with a solution that is best for me. I have created three separate files: one for recipes that I have not yet made but want to try out, one for all of my holiday recipes, and one strictly for fall recipes. Yes, I have created an entire binder dedicated to nothing but recipes that are best served during autumn. It is by far my favorite time of year, the food is just so outrageously delicious! I simply bought a binder, dividers, sheet protectors and a few scrapbook-y things, and came up with something I'm pretty proud of:

Here are some of the recipes within that are my favorite: 
All of these recipes are tried and true; the butternut squash lasagna has been a family staple for years and is literally one of my all-time favorite dishes, top three for sure!

I'm working on a holiday binder now. Each section is it's own holiday, I have Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years Eve, Valentines Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter and Fourth of July. Whew! I'll post pics when I finish that up, but it may be some time, there aren't too many scrapbook-y stickers for Easter just yet! 
I've already hit a snag in my oh-so-well-thought-out plan of action: I have no place for normal recipes. I have a recipe book that I was given at my bridal shower, full of recipes from friends and family to help start my marriage off right (I LOVE that gift more than any other!), and I want to keep it as a book full of recipes that people have given me...unless I can figure out another way to incorporate regular recipes I just may have to...any thoughts or ideas on how I can accomplish this? I don't need 10 recipe binders floating around, I already have that many cookbooks!! :)

Monday, October 3, 2011

The junk is just not worth it anymore...

So, I cheated a bit. My parents are out of town for the week, and since yesterday was the weekend still, and I was feeling all sorry for myself being all alone (I hate being all alone, I got a whole lifetime's worth of it last year!) and missing my husband like crazy (sometimes I feel like it will actually drive me crazy!), I cheated with my food. I made chocolate chip cookies. And ate a few. And ate chips. And I feel like crap today. That is mainly why I'm posting this; after having adopted a healthy lifestyle and changing my diet to mostly unprocessed, whole foods, eating junk does not make my body happy! A little suffering is in order I suppose, I did it to myself! It's interesting to me to connect the two, before I changed my habits I ate junk all the time, and while there was a general low level of crap-feeling all the time, I never associated it so closely or realized just how harmful to both body and mind it really is. I feel lethargic, my mind seems a bit muddled and my tummy is marching in a protest parade. Sooo not worth it! I think I'll go make myself a green monster and press play on my workout dvd...