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Roasted Pumpkin Orzo with Goat Cheese and Cranberries… or Thanksgiving in a bowl

16 Nov

I am not sure if I’m doing Thanksgiving with the family this year… my family on this side is very thin and they all have their own thing going. I may even accept an invitation to do Thanksgiving in the BVIs.

And it got me thinking of all those people out there that do Thanksgiving by themselves… or just with a partner or a family member. Those people, who like me, have their bulk of the family far away from them. My friend Sue reminded me that not everyone has or likes to cook Thanksgiving for tons of people. Sometimes it’s just you. And that’s also something to be thankful for…

I’ve done and practiced this recipe only for myself… so why adapt it to make for more people?? I’ll share it for just one person, but YOU can feel free to multiply it for as many people in your dinner party. It’s indeed something to indulge and maybe even use up any leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner.

Regardless of how I decide to celebrate Thanksgiving this year… and celebrate I will, I already know I can capture all the flavors and feelings of Thanksgiving in this bowl.

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Roasted Pumpkin Orzo with Goat Cheese and Cranberries

1/3 cup whole grain orzo pasta
2 cups of pumpkin, peeled and cut into 2 inch cubes
3 ounces goat cheese, divided
3-4 Sage leaves, fresh or dried
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
¼ cup dried cranberries
  1. In a baking dish place the pieces of pumpkin, crumble or chop the sage leaves and spread all over the pumpkin pieces. Season with salt, pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Toss well to combine. Add about half the goat cheese in pieces andnestle them in between the pieces of pumpkin. Drizzle an extra olive oil stream over the goat cheese to make sure the cheese browns.
  2. Roast in a 400F oven for about 30 minutes. No need to move or flip anymore. When the time is done, turn off the oven. Leave everything in there to finish cooking while you boil the pasta.

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3.  Boil the pasta in salted water according to the package directions. Orzo cooks very quickly… Drain most of the water, but not all. I do not use a colander for this; I just strain most of the water thru the pot cover. The water left will help create the sauce.

4.  Add the remaining goat cheese to the pasta. Stir well to combine, melt the cheese and create a sauce. Add the roasted pumpkin pieces with the toasted goat cheese. You can save a few pieces to use for garnish if you’d like. Add the dried cranberries. Mix all the components well.

5.  Serve using the reserved pieces of pumpkin and goat cheese and maybe a few extra cranberries too.

It’s quick… and almost needs no tending to. It’s a great pasta dish to enjoy during Thanksgiving or to use up some pumpkins you may still have left from Halloween, huh??

 

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The cranberries might sound funky to you, but they balance out the tanginess and savory aspects of the goat cheese and the sage. I might add some toasted nuts next time to see how that plays up. But for now, it’s delish!!!

Puerto Rican Pumpkin Fritters

3 Dec

In Puerto Rico, these pumpkin fritters are called “barriguitas de vieja” or “old lady bellies”… I just think that name is a tad discriminatory. Who said all old ladies bellies are sweet and wrinkly??? I am sure some old bellies out there are not sweet… LOL!!!!! I am so lame, I laugh at my own jokes…

Enjoy these, which are super delicious regardless of my bad jokes.

PUERTO RICAN PUMPKIN FRITTERS

2 cups fresh pumpkin puree
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
A few grates of fresh nutmeg
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp egg replacer + 2 tbs water
Canola Oil for frying
  1. First we steam the pumpkins to make the puree… I just peel and cut some pumpkin pieces and place them in a shallow pan that has a lid. I add about ½ inch of water and some kosher salt. Cover the pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as you hear the water inside boiling, turn down the heat and allow the steam inside cook the pumpkins for about 10-15 minutes. Check the pumpkins at about 10 minutes… if they’re not completely done, just cover again, wait about 1 minute and turn off the heat and leave there uncovered for some 10-15 minutes more. They’ll be done by then.
  2. I just take the pumpkin pieces out into a bowl and mash… if you feel they’re too stringy, you can certainly pass the mashed pumpkin thru a sieve. But I don’t usually do that… I don’t find it’s necessary. You can certainly do all this steaming and mashing ahead. I did it the night before to use the mashed pumpkin for this recipe and for a pumpkin cheesecake I was making too.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the egg replacer with the water. Stir vigorously or whisk and set aside.
  4. Now we assemble the batter… in a large bowl mix together all the ingredients, including the egg replacer mix. I use my hands to mix well and almost knead the recipe. I tried using a spoon or spatula and it does not work well.

5.  In a frying pan add about 1 inch oil to fry these fritters over medium-high heat… wait until the oil has reached temperature before adding the first one. I usually check if the oil is ready by inserting the back side of a wooden spoon into the oil. If the oil bubbles around it, the oil is ready.

6.  Using 2 spoons create little mounds of batter to fry. My mom likes to spread them a bit once they’re in the pan so they’re not too thick and they fry faster. Once they’re golden brown on one side, flip them over to fry on the other side.

7.  Once they’re cooked and golden brown on both sides, take them out and drain on a plate lined with paper towels.

When they’ve cooled off a bit, enjoy one after the other. You’ll see they’re addictive…

Pumpkin Cheesecake

29 Nov

Someone over on Facebook was discussing which desserts everyone was making for Thanksgiving… and someone mentioned pumpkin cheesecake. I immediately knew that would be my dessert of choice this year.

Plus… I had pumpkin my Titi Carmín gave me and I wanted to use it all in my Thanksgiving cooking. I used part in my Pumpkin and Spinach Phyllo Pie and the rest of the mashed pumpkin in my Puerto Rican Pumpkin Fritters.

This recipe is an adaptation of 2 recipes I saw on the internet… I mostly followed Martha Stewart’s recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake, but I adapted the recipe to make it vegetarian without using eggs and used fresh pumpkin puree instead of canned pumpkin.

My springform pan is super small – I use a 4 ½” pan – and I use my toaster oven to bake it, I also had to adapt the times given in the original recipes. Because most of you guys probably have regular springform pans and will need to bake this in your regular large ovens, I will give you the original recipe proportions, temperatures and times. If you would like my adapted size, temps and times for using a toaster oven, let me know and I will gladly include too. OK???

EGGLESS PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE

10 graham crackers
¼ cup brown sugar
4 tbs butter, melted
 
4 packs of cream cheese
1 ¼ cups brown sugar
1 tbs cornstarch
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup sour cream
1 tbs cinnamon
A few grates of fresh nutmeg
1 tbs vanilla powder
½ tsp salt
6 tsp egg replacer + 8 tbs water
  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees, with rack in center.
  2. In a food processor, grind the 10 crackers into a meal. Add sugar and melted butter and process until well combined and resembles wet sand.
  3. Press the cracker mixture firmly into bottom of 9” non-stick spring-form pan. Bake until golden around edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool a bit before adding the filling.
  4. Reduce oven temp to 300F.
  5. For the filling, add all the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and pulse and process until the ingredients form an homogeneous mix, but stop once it’s all combined. Avoid over-processing.
  6. Place spring-form pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour filling into spring-form, and gently smooth top. Tap pan onto the counter a few times to avoid having bubbles and for the batter to settle well. Transfer to oven. Bake for 45 minutes. Turn off oven; let cheesecake stay in oven 2 hours more (without opening the door at all).
  7. Remove from oven and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to cool completely. Unmold before serving.

I actually ¼ the ingredients in this recipe and It gave me enough batter and crust to make 2 cheesecakes in my 4 1/2” pan. Because I made in the toaster oven, as I saw no need to turn on a large oven for such a small pan, I had to adjust the cooking times because it does not need as much time in the oven as for a larger pan.

The end result is a delicious, delicious cheesecake. This is certainly a winner in my book… a recipe that will stay in my Thanksgiving and Fall repertoire for years to come.

Pumpkin and Spinach Phyllo Pie

27 Nov

It’s a good thing to start new traditions… I am a very family-oriented person and I love family gatherings. However, my family is spread all over and we no longer get-together as a family like we used to. You see… we used to gather every holiday in my grandma’s house – Xmas, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, 3 Kings Day… but now that she’s no longer with us, people don’t see the need to get together as a family anymore.

I invited my mom, my uncle, my aunt and her husband to my house for a Thanksgiving lunch. Lunch is what we always celebrated together… but everyone already had plans so it was only my mom and I this year. This is a new family tradition – vegetarian Thanksgiving lunch @ Madelyn’s.

My aunt gave me 2 large pumpkin pieces a few days back and I decided this Thanksgiving would be a study in pumpkin, if you will. Titi Carmín might have been busy doing her thing, but she was all over this Thanksgiving dinner…

This recipe was inspired by a recipe I saw in The New York Times… but I adapted it to make it with the ingredients I had available at home. I was not going to be a slave to running to the grocery store at the last minute to make something by a recipe. So I urge you to also tweak this recipe to fit your taste and the ingredients you might have available.

PUMPKIN AND SPINACH PHYLLO PIE

1 cup pumpkin, cut into small pieces
½ cup frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 leek, cleaned well and chopped
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup lightly toasted walnuts, chopped
1 small tart apple, peeled and cut into 1” pieces, like Granny Smith
3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
½ cup 4 cheese blend of grated cheeses
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 thyme sprigs, leaves removed
3/4 pound phyllo dough, thawed and at room temperature (more if needed)
 
 
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and oil the foil. Place the pumpkin on the baking sheet and season with salt, pepper, olive oil and a few thyme sprigs. Place in the oven. Bake until tender, 30 to40 minutes. Every so often, turn the pieces over so they brown on most sides. Remove from the oven and transfer them to a bowl to cool. You can do this the day before if you want.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet and add the leeks. Cook, stirring, until leeks are tender and just beginning to color, about 5 minutes. Add the apples pieces and the spinach. Cook for another 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Turn the heat off and add the pumpkin. Stir to combine and to warm the pumpkin if you cooked some time ahead. Stir in the walnuts, goat cheese, and grated cheese blend. Set aside.

3.  Brush a pie pan or small glass pyrex pan with olive oil and line the bottom with parchment. Brush the parchment with olive oil.

4.  Unroll the phyllo dough. Keep it covered with a damp towel. Take a sheet of phyllo and place it on your work surface. Brush lightly with olive oil and place another sheet on top. Fold the two layers in half. Place on the bottom of your pan, don’t mind any overhang. Add your filling over the phyllo sheets. Bring any overhang of phyllo to top the filling. Cover the filling with a few additional phyllo sheets that have been brushed with olive oil just like the first ones. No need to be super careful, the last phyllo sheet I like to crumble on top to give it a rustic look.

5.  Bake on the middle rack of a large oven at 400F for 50 to 60 minutes, until nicely browned. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

I make this on my toaster oven where the coil is very close to the pie top. So if you find the top is browning too fast, just place a loose sheet of aluminum paper on top to avoid any over browning. In my toaster oven this cooked for only 25-30 minutes.

You can serve this hot or warm.

I usually go Italian for my Thanksgiving menus – making lasagnas, risottos or polentas in past years. So it was refreshing for me to go the Greek route this year. I might have to do this again… this was delicious and very easy to make.

Vegetarian Thanksgiving Ideas…

20 Nov

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays… No, correction. It is MY FAVORITE HOLIDAY. Maybe because I was born on a Thanksgiving Day, but most of all because I love the fact it’s a holiday to be grateful for all the things we have…

There are sooo many things to feel thankful for… everything we have and even what we don’t have. Our family, our health, the fact we can walk, hear, speak, a roof over our heads, being able to work, that we have food on our tables and have every morning an opportunity to be a better person and forge for ourselves a better future… and for what we don’t have – sickness, that boyfriend that left before his time (in your opinion…), that former job that was making our stress so crazy…

And it’s a shame this holiday has become such a sad holiday for turkeys… I am sure each and every turkey would THANK YOU a lot if you can make Thanksgiving an even more positive holiday without the need to bring suffering to our turkey friends. There are so many more positive ways to demonstrate our gratitude…

Thanksgiving can be just a joyful experience and family-oriented holiday without a turkey at the center of the table. You can still make honor to the flavors of the season and make this holiday the most positive one ever!!

Here are a few of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes from years past:

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

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Wild Mushroom Lasagna

Pumpkin Risotto

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Arugula Red Onion and Orange Salad

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Cranberry Sauce

Just boil or steam some sweet potatoes, mash them with butter and a little bit of milk and serve them alongside a delicious sweet and tangy Cranberry Preserves.

Vanilla Maple Carrots

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Vanilla Cinnamon Sweet Plantains

This is the traditional Latin side dish to any pasta dish… perfect with the Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese, the Mushroom Lasagna or even the Pumpkin Risotto. I have also made them to accompany Giada Di Laurentiis’ Butternut Squash Lasagna here…

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Sweet Potato Flan

Flans do not need to include any eggs if it has cream cheese… YUM!!!

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Thank you for your continued support and may your Thanksgiving Holiday be filled with lots of joy, family and love.

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