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Tuesday

9

February 2016

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COMMENTS

How to Use 8 Winter Veggies

Written by , Posted in How To, Thoughts, Vegetables

With the colder weather comes the heartier, sturdier winter veggies. Things like kohlrabi, beets, and daikon radishes take the place of the more delicate summer squash, snap peas, and tomatoes. With each season there are some things that are much easier to figure out what to do with than others. This also comes from experience, of course. If you’re in your first season of ever eating beets, they can be a challenge to figure out. But, after a while, they’re a synch.

Here are some of my favorite ways to use some of winter’s finest, and a little bit about them.

Beets

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Beets, while often deep red in color (perfect for staining your hands, so beware), can also be golden or striped in color. They are one of those veggies that need to be cut into to truly show off their beauty. Beets have a sweet, earthy flavor. They are fabulous with citrus, goat cheese, and pasta. They can be steamed, roasted, or sautéed, to name just a few great ways to cook them.

Some of my favorite ways to enjoy beets are as: PicklesTwice Cooked Beets with Pomegranates and Goat Cheese, and in a Warm Beet Salad with Fruit and Nuts.

Daikon Radishes

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Daikon radishes have a more mild and sweet flavor than the smaller red radishes, which can really pack an awesome spicy punch. They are so versatile. I use them in everything from stir fry to soups to raw in a salad. They pair well with carrots, mild cheeses, and other root veggies. They’re a fabulous addition to Hearty Kale and White Bean Quesadillas and Broccoli and Goat Cheese Wraps, and the star of Radish and Feta Toasts.

Escarole

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Escarole is kinda like a sturdier lettuce. Almost like a cross between cabbage and romaine, with a hint of bitterness. It can be eaten raw or cooked, which is a bonus. It pairs well with eggs, beans, and lemons.

I like to chop it up and use it in a Caesar Salad. It’s also great added to soup, near the end of the cooking time like you’d do with the greens in this Ham and Greens Chowder.

Fennel

Fennel

Fennel has a texture similar to celery, but has an anise or licorice flavor and is more pronounced when it’s raw. It’s great used as the boat in Tuna Boats, and in lots of great salads. Since I prefer it to be more subdued, I love it best when it’s cooked. I especially like it in Roasted Stone Fruit with Bulgur and Fennel (in the winter apples could be subbed for stone fruit), on Fennel Pizza, and in a super hearty Chicken Noodle Soup. Fennel pairs well with arugula, beans, and cheese.

Kale

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Kale has a sweet green flavor. It’s not bitter and it’s super sturdy. It can be difficult to digest, but one way to counter that is to massage the kale prior to eating (seriously!). Kale pairs well with citrus, beans, and root veggies (especially potatoes). It can be prepared in so so many ways. It’s great raw and massaged in salads and blended up in smoothies, blitzed up into a pesto and served on Spicy Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes or Garlic and Herb Bread, cooked in Hearty White Bean and Kale Quesadillas, Potato Pancakes, or crisped up as Kale Chips.

Kohlrabi

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Kohlrabi are cute little Yoda-looking veggies. They have a taste similar to a combination of broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Kohlrabi pairs well with cheese (especially parmesan), dill, and vinegar. It’s great raw, in salads or with dip, I love it cooked in Kohlrabi Stew or steamed in Kohlrabi Stuffed with Cabbage and Apples.

Leeks

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Leeks are what I’d consider the onion’s second cousins. They’re milder than an onion or a shallot (first cousins), but still have a sweet oniony flavor. They often have a lot of dirt between the layers, so it’s important to wash well (I like to cut them into rings, swish around in a bowl of water, let the grit fall to the bottom, then remove and chop as desired). But, they won’t make you cry when you cut them, which is a definite bonus. I use leeks, onions, and shallots interchangeably. But, leeks specifically pair well with herbs like parsley, sorrel, basil, rosemary, and thyme, potatoes (like in this Leek and Potato Soup) and other root veggies, and they are great with cheese (you could sauté some leeks and add them to a Winter Squash Dip, or sub the winter squash for leeks and yogurt/cream cheese/blue cheese/silken tofu, or add them to this Artichoke Heart Dip).

Lemongrass

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The taste of lemongrass reminds me a little of Froot Loops, which were a very rare and special treat for my brothers and I when we were kids. It smells kinda like lemon and grass, interestingly enough. It’s fabulous in Asian cuisine, like in this Sweet and Spicy Lemongrass Stir Fry. It pairs well with coconut milk, veggies like carrots, garlic, and ginger, and is great in soups like Thai Basil and Peanut Soup.

Happy Eating!

Some paring ideas from The Vegetarian Flavor Bible.

Tuesday

26

January 2016

0

COMMENTS

Ten Ways to Use Cabbage

Written by , Posted in How To, Thoughts

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I love cabbage. It’s versatile and can be used in so many ways. It tastes great and when you get a head of cabbage there’s so much to it that it seems to last forever (in a good way).

Here are some ideas that I think are great.

Borscht is a soup that is a tradition in my family. My Oma used to make it, as did her parents and probably her grandparents too. It’s a humble soup, I think from a time and place where there wasn’t much. It takes simple ingredients, cabbage, potatoes, and beets, and transforms them into something hearty and nutritious. Oh and bonus, it tastes even better the second day.

Cabbage Rolls Cabbage has great sturdy leaves for holding the filling in. The bigger the better for this, unless you’re looking to make some appetizers or little bites. These are a great make ahead dish. You could make a big batch and freeze the leftovers for a day that you’re too tired to cook.

Tuna Boats Cabbage is a great sturdy boat for tuna, but not just that, its sweet flavor is the perfect compliment.

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Thai Basil and Peanut Soup Shredded cabbage and creamy peanut soup – that’s a great idea.

Veggie Pot Pie is a great way to clean out the fridge. So many great veggies can come together in a pot pie. If I didn’t have anything else on hand, I might even just use cabbage. I like it that much.

Individual Red Cabbage and Apple Tarts As I was saying about the veggie pot pie that would be great with just cabbage, well, this is cabbage and apple, and it’s just divine. So much so that I did an episode of A Cooking Show with Rachel O about it a few years ago.

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Bulgur Wheat with Sausage and Apples This is a great one for a tired weeknight. It’s easy, yummy, and filling. Plus, the veggie possibilities are kinda endless. I think I’d like this with cabbage and carrots.

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Stir Fry Cabbage can be great in stir fry. It can be as simple as using it to replace the red choi when you don’t have any on hand. Or, you could quickly stir fry some cabbage and onions with chicken or tofu. Dinner in no time!

Hot Napa Slaw Cabbage is great in both hot and cold coleslaws. In this one, the cabbage is reduced down and served as a delicious and savory side. The perfect compliment to a roast. And maybe, if there are leftovers, you’d want to eat them for breakfast topped with a fried egg with a piece of buttered toast.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Coleslaw A few years ago, when I was still filming A Cooking Show with Rachel O, I thought it would be fun to make a pulled pork sandwich and top it with coleslaw. And what a delicious idea it was!

Happy Eating!

Friday

4

December 2015

0

COMMENTS

Cooking Apples

Written by , Posted in How To

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There are so many awesome fruits to choose from and love. And really, you can’t go wrong with fruit. But, there’s something about the humble apple that I just love. Maybe because the taste signifies fall and reminds me of home (especially a Macintosh). Yum, healthy, comforting. They mean that cold weather is a comin’ (cough, it’s 84 degrees as I type this, cough, frown). They’re the perfect afternoon pick-me-up. If I’m starving while I cook dinner, an apple won’t spoil my appetite, but it will tide me over. I like ’em a little bit cold, sweet but not too, and the crunchier the better. And, if possible, picked right off the tree. (Someday, I want to have an apple tree.)

But, apples aren’t just great for eating out of hand. They’re amazing when they’re cooked too. Even though I eat them raw most of the time, let’s talk about how to prepare them.

Super Simple

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One of my all-time favorite snacks is apples and cheese. Sometimes I’ll add some nuts and crackers and call it a meal. So it makes sense to use apples and cheese to top bread, like I did for this Apple Rosemary Flatbread. It’s super simple to prepare, and a great way to incorporate fruit into a meal in a non-traditional way.

An easy weeknight dessert is Baked Apples with Raisins and Cinnamon. Use a paring knife to carefully cut out the core. Place apples on a baking sheet and stuff where the core was with raisins, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Bake at 350F until they’re hot and as tender as you’d like.

Apples with Meat

Apples go well with pork, so you could cook some down on the stove top, or slice them and roast them alongside a pork roast (along with some onions and carrots). If you have time, you might make them into apple sauce and serve it, slightly warm, on top or on the side. I also love to have apples and bacon together, like on a BBQ Apple Bacon Pizza.

Apples for Dessert

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Apples, depending on their type, can hold their shape when cooked, so they lend well to desserts where you want some texture. Take a fruit crisp for example. While it’d be great with apple sauce at the bottom, that’s not really the point of the dish (you may as well just have apple sauce and granola). You want some good, soft chunks of fruit underneath that sweet oaty topping.

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Or in the case of an apple galette or apple pie, you want the apple to hold its shape. Just enough so you have to cut through, but not so much that you need to use a knife for anything other than serving.

Apples in Bread

There’s not a whole lot that smells better than bread baking in the oven. Except if there’s cinnamon and apples in the bread. That’d be enough to put me into a comfort coma (what?!) for days. Or, you know, just feel nice and happy and like I’ve just been to visit family. My mom makes the. best. cinnamon buns. They’re best the day of, still a bit warm from the oven. I’d like to suggest that apples might make for a nice addition to these already awesome buns.

I’ve recently started baking a lot more. Some of it is out of necessity – food is expensive. It’s cheaper if I make bread rather than buy it (plus it tastes way better). So, sandwich bread is now homemade. Baguettes, well, they’ve been homemade ever since we visited Paris. And biscuits, they’re almost too easy to make at home (which makes it easier to add apples and cheese). I’ve been baking a recipe from Aimée from Simple Bites’ cookbook Brown Eggs & Jam Jars every other week or so for a while now. Sometimes when I make it, after it’s risen once, I flatten one loaf out, and sprinkle it with cinnamon and brown sugar, then roll it up. Apples would be a great addition to the cinnamon swirl loaf.

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I’ve also worked on a Persimmon Apple bread that will be live on here in a couple of weeks. It’s like an apple snack cake, or a muffin loaf. Or, generally, fitting with the trend of apples+cinnamon+bread equalling awesome.

Apples for Breakfast

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It’s always a good idea to cook down some apples and have them on hand. You could just hit them with a touch of heat, so they’re barely warmed through and still a bit crunchy. Or, you could cook them until just before they become sauce. Then serve them cooled atop pancakes, peanut butter smeared toast, or with cinnamon in oatmeal.

Apple Prep

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Apples are simple to prepare.

  1. If they’re organic, all they’ll need is a quick scrub.
  2. You can peel them. But, did you know that there are many nutrients found in the skin of the apple, along with beneficial fiber? It tastes good and is good for you.
  3. Remove the core (seeds and seed pods – they’re not fun to bite down on, although not the end of the world if you miss a tiny bit of the core – not like leaving an egg shell in the batter). I have an apple corer and slicer. It’s great and usually does the trick. But, a knife works just as well, sometimes better.
  4. Chop as directed for your recipe.

Happy Eating!

Thursday

5

November 2015

0

COMMENTS

How to Prep Your Kitchen for the Holidays

Written by , Posted in Holiday, How To

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It’s hard to believe, but the holidays are just around the corner. Is it just me, or does it feel like it should only be June or July? It was just January… wasn’t it? In any case, ready or not, here they come.

Whether your hosting or a guest who’s bringing a side dish, there’s plenty that can be done ahead of time to get your kitchen ready for some holiday cooking. I’m a plan ahead, list making, organization loving kinda gal. I don’t like last minute changes, or coming to a busy time of year unprepared. So I make to do lists and a menu plan way ahead of time.

With this in mind, here are some ways you can feel one step ahead as we roll into the holidays.

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Four Weeks Ahead

Menu Plan

Come up with a rough idea of what you want to serve for your holiday dinner. Jot down a few ideas for other meals around that time too, especially if you will be hosting overnight guests, or people for more than one meal. Then, take a deep breath and jump in. (P.S. You’re so brave. I admire you. Way to go!) If you need some help getting started, I’ve done a menu planning series, plus have a few posts with holiday menu ideas (including brunch).

Invite Guests

Figure out who’s coming with plenty of time to adjust the menu and seating chart accordingly. You’ll want to ask if anyone has dietary restrictions or allergies. If you come across any, and if you’re letting guests share in the cooking load, have those with the restrictions bring a dish that they can eat (and let them know if there’s anyone else coming who eats the same way). This will save you or other guests from buying expensive ingredients that you may only use once. Plus, someone who always eats a certain way is more likely to be a pro at cooking that way. Of course, it’s also nice to have other dishes that they can eat too (just one thing for dinner would be super boring).

Order Meat

One of the reasons you want to have an idea of who’s coming and what you’re making is you need to order your meat ahead of time. Turkeys tend to go quickly, so you don’t want to be serving tofurkey to your carnivores just because you didn’t get your order in on time. If you’re not ordering and are buying from a local store or market, it’s still a great idea to pick up your meat in advance (if you’ve got room in the freezer, or have a friend who could store it for you). There will be better selection than the day before the holiday, and you don’t run the risk of them running out.

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Two Weeks Ahead

Nail Down the Menu

Figure out exactly what you’re going to be serving. List all items, including those being brought by others (and double check that they’re still planning to bring them). Write it down or type it out so it’s not just found in your head. This is a great time to figure out some ideas for what to do with your leftovers too.

Grocery Shop

Everything except the perishable items. If you wait until the week of or even the day before a holiday, you might be out of luck and Auntie Gertrude won’t get her canned cranberry sauce.

Make Your To Do Lists

My brain melts without organization. So, if I was going to host a big holiday dinner, I’d need many many lists of all the to dos. I’d want a list of the food to be served (with a note about who is preparing it, what serving utensils it will require, if it will need space in the oven etc). I’d make a schedule of the week leading up to the event, and the day of. For the day of (and probably day before), I’d go hour by hour with what will be done. I’d have a list of the household chores to be done and who is responsible for each one (guest rooms to prep, bathrooms to clean etc). Since others will want to know what they can do to help (cough, clean the bathrooms, cough), it may be helpful for each person to have a “honey do list”, that they can keep with them and mark things off as they go. Whether you do each list individually, or make one master list is up to you. I’d probably end up doing both, since I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to list making. Do whatever helps you to feel the least stressed.

Stock the Kitchen

Spices – I like to have salt (table salt and a good finishing salt), pepper, cayenne, paprika, coriander, chili powder, cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg, and ginger (the last four are what I use for pumpkin pie – you don’t have to buy the pre-mixed bottle) on hand. They might not all be used for a holiday meal, but I use them so frequently that they’d at least get used when transforming leftovers into something delicious.

Herbs – Fresh herbs are always my preference. But, if they’re not available, dried will work well too (just remember to use less since they’re more concentrated than fresh). In either case, for the holidays, I like to have basil, rosemary, parsley, thyme, oregano, marjoram, sage, and tarragon on hand. I don’t buy poultry seasoning since it can be made with herbs and spices that I have on hand (it usually consists of: thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, black pepper, and nutmeg).

The Pantry – You don’t want to run out of olive oil or balsamic vinegar in the middle of cooking for your big dinner. So make sure you have a few staples on hand. I like to have: olive oil, canola oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine or apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, baking powder, baking soda, flour, vanilla, salt, honey, maple syrup, and sugar (brown and white).

The Fridge – Eggs, cheese, dijon mustard, mayonnaise, milk, and yogurt are staples in my home no matter the time of year.

Clean the Kitchen 

Like a good deep clean… It might be a good time to do the same for the bathroom. This way you can clean the week of, but it won’t take nearly as long. I’d suggest cleaning out the fridge and freezer (and using up some of the food to make room for the turkey, made ahead meals, and leftovers), sink, shelves, stove, oven, and other small appliances that may get used (mixer, microwave, toaster oven, blender). There’s going to be a lot of traffic in your kitchen, whether it’s just your own two hands doing a lot, or many others. It’s always better to start with everything clean.

Wash and Fold Linens

This can be done the week of. But, it’s something simple to get off your to do list, and it can be done while relaxing with a glass of something yummy, while watching something fun (and yes, others can help, especially the kids!).

Count Plates, Platters, Bowls, Serving Bowls, Silverware, Serving Spoons, Glasses (water and wine) 

You want to be sure that everyone has not only a plate and cup, but a fork to eat with. Everything doesn’t have to match (unless you want it to), so if you’re not sure you’ll have enough spoons, borrow from someone who will be attending the event (then they can take them home at the end of the night, leaving you with one less thing to do), or who will be out of town (and not needing them for their own gathering). If you’re borrowing someone’s fancy dishes and you have children coming to your event, be sure to ask if they’re ok with kids using them, or if you should have special plates for the kids, rather than risk breaking them.

Prep Freezer Meals

It wouldn’t hurt to have a meal or two in the freezer for two days after your big dinner. You’ll probably have eaten leftovers the day after, but maybe you don’t want to eat the same thing three days in a row. A frozen lasagna or shepherd’s pie would be perfect, and will feed many if you still have loved ones in town.

Prep Breakfast Foods

Breakfast doesn’t have to be fancy. But, if you want to make something ahead of time, your guests are sure to feel extra loved. If you’re not crazy about making even more food, or your freezer is completely full, cereal and toast will be just fine. I mean, your guests have a comfy bed to sleep in and your wonderful company. What more could they really ask for?!

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The Week Of

Grocery Shop for Last Minute Items

Any perishable items that you’ve waited to purchase. Try to avoid shopping the day before or day of the holiday if you can. Selection will be better and your sanity will thank you.

Sharpen Knives

Either sharpen or use a honing steel to realign your blades before cooking your holiday feast. It’s important to keep knives sharp, so don’t neglect them.

Defrost Meat

Be sure to give your meat plenty of time to defrost in the fridge. No one wants to end up with a beautiful outside, but still frozen inside turkey. For large cuts of meat you will need days, so plan accordingly and make room in the fridge. I like to keep meat covered, on the bottom shelf, in some sort of a pan with sides so there’s no way that it will cross contaminate other foods in the fridge.

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Mis en Place

You have your lists made, so you know what you’re going to need and when you will need it. You could save some time and prep ingredients for the big cooking day by chopping and measuring in advance. Things like carrots and celery for stuffing, dry ingredients for biscuits or pancakes, and nuts for green bean casserole can all be prepped in advance and stored in glass or plastic containers (in the fridge or not, depending on what they are). Pie crusts can be made and frozen. Mashed potatoes can be completely cooked and then reheated the day of. There’s lots to do so that the day of isn’t stressful.

The Kids

The kids don’t have to just be cute little observers/distractions/noise makers. They can lend a hand too. Some things that kids can do to help are: tidy their rooms, help with other household chores (sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, and depending on their ages, cleaning bathrooms and the kitchen), doing dishes, setting the table, whisking, stirring, measuring, chopping (depending on your comfort level with them using a sharp knife and their knife skills), coming up with menu ideas (they might be more likely to eat it if they’ve come up with the idea), folding linens, counting silverware, and on and on… lots for the kiddos to do.

With these tips, I hope that everything goes as smoothly as possible and that you’re able to enjoy your time with loved ones – in the kitchen, around the table, and wherever your holidays may take you.

Happy Eating!

Saturday

31

October 2015

0

COMMENTS

Ten Ways to Use Pumpkins

Written by , Posted in How To, Vegetables

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Pumpkins are a super cute way to welcome fall. They’re fun and cheerful and their orange flesh makes me happy. They can be used in so many ways. They make a great addition to a fall centerpiece at your dinner party or just amidst fall decor. They are fabulous to eat. And, they are so much fun to carve.

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Pumpkins as Decor and for Carving

1. I love pumpkins anywhere. They’re cute atop a table by the door, or added to the garden. If you want to leave them outside, they will last longer if they’re not carved, so wait to do that until a day or two before you need them.

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2. If you can never get enough of them, save some of the seeds from this year’s pumpkins and plant them in your garden next year. They will take up lots of room, so be sure you have space before you plant. Tim found a broken lattice and put it back together for me so that when I plant some more winter squash it can climb up rather than take over the rest of the garden (and in the spring I’ll use it for peas).

3. The seeds that you don’t save for planting, toss them with some oil and seasonings and roast them. They’ll make a yummy snack.

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4. Pumpkins and other winter squash make for a beautiful centerpiece. You can collect leaves and press them in books, collect pinecones, and set them around the pumpkins for a lovely fall table. I will use any type of pumpkin or winter squash that I have on hand. I think they’re all pretty.

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5. If you’re going to carve*, you could get creative and trace some leaves and either carve all the way through the pumpkin or just slice off a bit of the skin so that a light inside makes the carved leaves glow. If you want to keep carving after Halloween, you could carve the words “GIVE THANKS” for Thanksgiving, or carve things that you’re thankful for (pictures or words).

6. If you want to decorate the pumpkin and then eat it, I’d suggest waiting to decorate until the day before you plan to cook it so it won’t spoil. You could use clean pushpins and press leaves, cranberries, sage leaves, or other colorful fall treasures into the skin of the pumpkin. You could work on something abstract, or try to create a fall-scape.

7. With smaller pumpkins you might hollow out a bit of the top and put votives or small candles in them.

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8. They even look great on a drink cart or atop some treasured books (just be sure to check it each day to make sure it doesn’t get moldy if it’s sitting on something that can’t be cleaned). If you’ve got a pumpkin drink, you could serve it on the drink cart, in a large pumpkin with a ladle.

Pumpkins for Eating

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9. I’ve been working on some pumpkin (and winter squash) recipes for you. The first one was a Winter Squash Dip that’s fabulous no matter what kind of squash you use. If you have a pumpkin or a sturdy squash that can be used for serving, I’d give it a try!

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The second was a Pumpkin Pasta. The pumpkin doubles as a serving dish and a key ingredient. It’s perfect for a weeknight dinner, or for a special occasion. And, bonus, if you have extra sauce, it makes a fabulous broccoli and potato soup. We enjoyed this for dinner the other night – it’s now one of my all-time favorite soups.

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The third is a Pumpkin Pie Latté that was such a treat that I drank it all by myself and then made more.

10. Pumpkin can be added to sooo many things. Yum! Here are some suggestions for other foods to add pumpkin to.

Cookies Pumpkin and chocolate chip cookies would be fabulous.

Muffins Pumpkin apple muffins with a sprinkle of cinnamon would be a great fall breakfast.

Pancakes and Waffles Add some pumpkin and then top them with some spiced apples or pears.

Parfaits Mix some plain yogurt with a few tablespoons of pumpkin purée and a drizzle of maple syrup. Top it with some homemade granola, chopped nuts, and a drizzle of caramel.

Hot Chocolate Add 1 T pumpkin and some caramel to your hot chocolate.

Quesadillas Black beans + pumpkin/winter squash + cheese = perfect fall lunch.

Grilled Cheese Spread a layer of salted, puréed pumpkin on the inside of a slice of buttered bread (butter the outside), then top with cheese before closing and cooking.

Tomato Sauce Add pumpkin/winter squash to your favorite tomato sauce.

Pizza Substitute the tomato sauce for a pumpkin sauce (or do half and half) and top with greens and gruyère or fontina cheese.

Salad A frisée salad topped with roasted pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, crispy onions, mushrooms, and a dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and lemon zest would be perfect for a dinner party.

Hash Chop up some pumpkin, potatoes, parsnips, onion, and garlic and sauté. It could be served on its own, or topped with some olive oil fried eggs.

Roasted Toss with olive oil and some salt, then roast until crispy outside, tender inside, and serve with chopped nuts (almonds, peanuts, cashews, pistachios, pine nuts, walnuts, or pecans). You could also drizzle with maple syrup and add a bit of cheese.

Gratin Shittake mushrooms, pumpkin, ricotta, parmesan, and gruyère would make a lovely gratin.

Stew A hearty pumpkin or winter squash stew might also contain carrots, chickpeas or white beans, chiles, onion, coconut milk, spinach, and herbs like basil, parsley, thyme, and chives. Serve the stew in the pumpkin for a great centerpiece.

Happy Eating!

*Carved pumpkin was lettered, carved, and photographed by Tim Oberg.