Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thai Pumpkin Curry

When G&M moved back to Thailand a few months ago, we were the happy recipients of their kitchen-y generosity.  Not only did we get lots of spices and condiments that they would not be moving overseas, but some red and green curry pastes.  I've never considered myself a curry fan, but I am married to one and I do consider myself a "try it and see" kind of girl.

We have a couple of pumpkins from the garden, and there's only so much pumpkin pie two people can eat (very little, in fact, if you're me).  The last time we visited D's family in Portland, his mom got some pumpkin curry from a food truck downtown, which she raved about.  D suggested we try our hand at making it, so tonight that's what we did.

I don't enjoy cutting up any kind of squash; they're just so hard.  Our knives do a pretty good job, but it takes a bit of upper body strength too.  So we put on some music and I hacked away at a sugar pie pumpkin for awhile: cut off the top and bottom, peeled the skin (with a knife - the vegetable peeler wasn't up to the job), halved it, scooped out the "goo," and diced it.  Since I knew I'd have to do all that, I decided to make the chicken easy on myself and I bought a rotisserie chicken.  Since I was already wearing the apron, I shredded and deboned that too.

Then I ate candy corn for awhile.  The season for it is almost over, so it has to go and I really do try to do my part around here.  :)

And now, the recipe.  I confess I googled "pumpkin curry recipe" and found this one on the Williams Sonoma website.  I tweaked it a bit so I wouldn't have to buy ingredients I had substitutes for, and you can do that too.  Fortunately, we keep fish sauce on hand because Asian cooking just isn't the same without it.

First: peel, seed, and dice your small pumpkin (or butternut squash).  Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the pumpkin, cooking until it's just starting to be tender.  Drain it and set it aside.

Next: Combine half an onion (chopped coarsely), 3 cloves of garlic, 1 Tbsp. red curry paste, and 2 Tbsp. water in your blender.  Blend until smooth.

Then: If you're cooking your own chicken, heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large pan over medium heat and saute 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-size pieces until light brown on all sides.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a bowl.  If you're going the pre-cooked route, skip that part.  Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in the same pan and add the curry base.  While it's warming up, mix together 1 can unsweetened coconut milk, 2 Tbsp. fish sauce, juice of 1 lime (~2 Tbsp.), and 2 tsp. firmly packed brown sugar.  Stir it until the sugar is dissolved, and then add it to the hot curry base.

And now: Wait until the sauce on the stove has started to boil and then add your almost-cooked pumpkin & chicken.  Halve some sugar peas and add them to the pan.  Simmer until the pumpkin and chicken are fully cooked.  Chop some fresh basil and sprinkle it on top when the curry is done cooking, and serve it over steamed rice.

This dish made more than enough to share.  We wish you'd been here to eat it with us.  Let us know when you're coming and we'll make sure to have something hot to eat together.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Moroccan Chicken

Fall is winding down here as the weather cools.  We had a couple of hard frosts this week (morning temps in the mid-20s) so the garden is mostly done.  Today, though, the weather was gorgeous with sun and mid-60s, so we put on our work gloves and pulled all the dead plants out, coiled up the hose and the rabbit fence, and prepped the garden plot for its winter slumber.

Side note to my fellow APHC lovers: did that sound like something to start a News from Lake Wobegon segment or am I deluding myself into thinking I might be in the same class as Garrison?

Anyway, one of the things I love most about weekends right now is that I actually get to do some cooking.  There is time for both garden work and meal-making in the same day!  Weeknights I get home around 6:30, so my Helpful Husband graciously makes dinner and does the dishes while it cooks.  I am so blessed.  But I miss cooking, and since he also makes our weekly Saturday Night Pizza, Sunday is my one day to get my hands messy in the kitchen.

I started tonight's meal yesterday evening, when I set the 4 chicken legs (drums & thighs separated) to marinating in the following:
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 tsp. tumeric
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
pepper to taste

You wouldn't have to marinate it overnight - an hour would do the trick, but I was out in the garden then.  Then this evening the prep was pretty simple.  Place the chicken in a heavy, deep skillet over medium heat.  Cover it and let it cook for ~20 minutes.  While it's cooking, get a few more ingredients ready: peel of 1 lemon, grated; 1/2 cup pitted greek olives; 10 dates, pitted and halved lengthwise.  After your 20 minutes are up, flip the chicken over and sprinkle the lemon peel, olives, and dates into the pan.  If it looks dry, add a little water.  Cover and cook another 20 minutes.

Tonight we ate it with a big Mediterranean salad while we Skyped with D's parents.  The last of the garden tomatoes went on the salad, and they were wonderful.  It was so nice to "share" this meal with D's parents, since his mom gave me this recipe when we got married - and she got it from her mother-in-law too.  And now I've gone and shared it with all of you...hope it wasn't a family secret!  (No, if there's one thing the Cutters love to do, it's share food with their dear ones - a family trait I can absolutely embrace & my purpose in this blog).  So dear one, I hope your nights are cool, your days are sunny, and your belly is full of hearty food shared with those you love.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Apple Crisp (a la mode!)

What is fall without a trip to the apple orchard?  Although the apples were more expensive than at the store and we had to pick them ourselves, we got to support the Wilson family and we got to pick them ourselves.  

The apples were enormous and nearly falling off the trees.  The sun was shining and the bees (mostly) noticed my red hair wasn't an apple.  The orchard wasn't even that crowded since we were able to go on a Friday afternoon rather than the "real" weekend.  

So what do you do with a dozen giant apples?  Well, you can make an overflowing apple crisp with half of them!  I use my mom's recipe, which is simple in the best way: easy to make & no fancy flavors to mask the apple.

If you're me and you like to multitask, start by peeling, coring, and slicing 6-8 apples (depending on size) while catching up on last week's episode of "The Amazing Race."  Once that's done (which takes considerably more time in real life than in a blog), toss the apples with 1/2 cup sugar, 2 Tbsp. flour, and cinnamon to taste.  Put it all in a greased 9x13 pan.

Next mix together 1/3 cup melted butter, 3/4 cup flour, 3/4 cup oats, 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp. baking powder.  Spread it over the top of the apples.  Now here's my little trick: put it in the fridge overnight.  This gets the butter in the crumb topping nice and chilled, so when you bake it the crumb gets really crispy.  When you do bake it, set the oven to 350 and bake the crisp for about 45 minutes.  

Now, when you serve the crisp, add some ice cream.  It's just so good.  I've recently been using BlueBunny's Vanilla Bean Frozen Yogurt...yum!  If you like to be a person known for his/her decorum, eat your portion in private because you're probably going to want to lick your bowl.  Just FYI.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Ravioli with Sauteed Spinach & Sausage

There's something about fall that makes me want to be more intentional about food.  I love fall foods and flavors, and some of my favorite recipes are autumnal.  Maybe this desire to think more about what we're eating as the weather cools will remind me to post more often on this blog!

Sunday lunch is always a little tricky for me.  We don't get home from church until 12:30 or so, and we're hungry.  We don't want to have to spend a lot of time or effort on getting a meal ready, but we also actually have time to sit down and enjoy it so we want a good meal.  Today we celebrated the Sabbath with the last of our Trader Joe's bounty from last fall (I know, it's been in the freezer for a year - not ideal).  Those who have a TJ's nearby will be able to recreate this meal a little easier than those (like us) who don't.  We were some of the few who received a blessing from Superstorm Sandy last fall, when a truckload of TJ's foods was delivered to tiny Kalona, IA rather than the East Coast stores it was supposed to supply.  Then, because the Kalona store didn't have the space to keep the food on the shelves for long, everything was marked down to 50-90% off.  We used most of the food pretty quickly, but I stuck some things in the freezer and today we pulled out the last package of pumpkin ravioli.

Let me preface this by saying that there is no real "recipe" for this meal.  I'm not going to give you amounts, cook times, etc. because this is kind of a "wing-it" one.  That being said, it's super easy.  I start by putting the ravioli in boiling water to cook.  It only takes a couple of minutes, so chop some kielbasa and spinach while the ravioli boils.  Put the sausage and spinach in a skillet to saute, and when the ravioli is cooked, lift it out of the water with a slotted spoon and add it to the skillet.  This lets the outside get a little crispy.  When the spinach is wilted and the sausage & ravioli are getting browned, it's done.

I'm sure this would be good with any kind of ravioli, but we especially like the veggie-based ones: pumpkin, sweet potato, butternut squash, mushroom, etc.  I'm definitely going to be looking at our local grocery stores for more ravioli now that all our TJ's stock is gone!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Pesto Gnocchi

Although it's been quite awhile since I've posted, we HAVE eaten.  Many times, in fact.  Recently I've started a new job and am gone until past the hour when I'd ideally eat my dinner, and David has started his year of clinical rotations, so we're always on the look-out for quick & easy, delicious & (fairly) nutritious recipes.  I also have this thing about eating seasonally if possible, and this meal fits the bill.  I can look at Pinterest and, if I'm hungry, every food item sounds good.  In making some of the recipes, however, I've found little but disappointment.  Not so with this one.  Granted, tomatoes, cheese, and crispy-outside-chewy-inside potato dumplings in loads of pesto would be hard to ruin.  So here's the plan:

Find some gnocchi at your grocery store.  At mine it's in the freezer section near the pastas.  Once you get it home, don't follow the instructions on the back.  They say to boil and serve, but don't do that.  Instead, heat a large skillet on the stove, add a little olive oil, and then toss in the gnocchi.  Let them sit in a single layer for a few minutes until they start getting crisp on one side.  Jostle them around a bit so they can crisp up all over.  While they're cooking, halve about a pint of cherry tomatoes.  Once the gnocchi is ready, toss in the tomatoes, add 1/3 cup of pesto, and dice up about 1/4 cup fresh mozzarella or pinch off some pieces of goat cheese (your choice - but it's better with the goat cheese).  Stir it all together and enjoy!

Sunday, November 25, 2012


We had a delightful Thanksgiving meal with David's mom's family, but the meal occurred on the West Coast, which meant no leftovers to come home to.  So this afternoon we decorated for Christmas while a chicken roasted in the oven.  We've developed the tradition of a Thanksgiving chicken, since a turkey is really too much for the 2 of us.  This chicken was especially sweet, since it was a Trader Joe's free-range organic chicken that we got for half price and only 30 minutes away, rather than 2 hours away at the closest TJ's.  How, you may ask?  Well, when Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, the TJ's out there were without power, so they could not take their perishable food since they had no way of keeping it cold.  Instead, the trucks got routed to anywhere that would take the food, and a little store in Kalona, IA did!  I drive past Kalona for work most days, so I stopped a few times, and on one trip I got this little bird - 5 lbs for less than $5 (regularly $2.49/lb)!  Tonight I quartered a half onion, smashed a few cloves of garlic, rubbed the chicken with olive oil and sprinkled on some rosemary, sage, and thyme.  I started the bird at 450 for 10 minutes (the high heat makes for a crispier skin), then lowered the oven temperature to 375 for another 2 hours and 20 minutes.  After the chicken had been roasting for about an hour, there were enough juices to baste it with, so I spooned some up and drizzled them over the skin every 20 minutes or so.  Oh man, did it turn out good!  As you can see, we also had some green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, and stuffing, and a bowl of salad with the final spinach from our garden (not pictured since we ate it while we waited for the chicken to cool).  While we ate, we talked about all the many things for which we are thankful.  We are so blessed.  "All good gifts around us are sent from Heaven above, so thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love!"

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pumpkin Breakfasts

I recently heard fall called the "pumpkin-ocalypse," the season in which normal dishes and drinks become "Pumpkin Spice" this and that "with Pumpkin."  I'm not sure if this person was bemoaning the way the pumpkin flavor of fall has permeated our food culture or rejoicing in it, but the Helpful Husband and I celebrate it in all it's glory!  I am someone who loves and appreciates the changing of seasons.  I have to remind myself to continue to joyfully participate in the current season once it's settled in rather than turn my attention to anticipating the coming one.  God has given us such a beautiful display of his unchanging but multifaceted goodness, and my eagerness for what's next can sometimes overcome my appreciation for what is.  But with pumpkin, I don't grow tired.  In order to preserve its preciousness to my palate and to live as harmoniously with the earth's seasons as I can, I limit my pumpkin consumption to the autumn.  But in the autumn, I love to enjoy pumpkin morning, noon, and night!  And so, here are two breakfast recipes that we've happily consumed in the past week or two.

Now, to be really harmonious with the earth's seasons, as I so grandly put it in the previous paragraph, I should be getting my pumpkin from an actual pumpkin.  However, if you read the post about the Chicken and Chickpea soup, you'll know that the Helpful Husband and I have had quite enough struggles with using a real pumpkin this fall, and you'll understand a little better why we have fallen back on canned pumpkin puree.  I haven't worked out enough to be ready for another pumpkin battle.  The wonderful thing about these two pumpkin-y breakfast recipes is that between the two of them, they use one can of pumpkin puree very nicely.  I hate to waste any!  And so, without further ado, as I eat my pumpkin oatmeal, here are the recipes for Pumpkin Baked French Toast and Pumpkin Overnight Fridge Oatmeal - two dishes you make the night before and enjoy in the morning!  (both recipes were found on

Pumpkin Baked French Toast
Cut up enough bread (whatever kind you want) to fill an greased 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish.  In a large bowl, whisk together 4 large eggs, 1 cup milk, 1/2 tsp. vanilla, 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, 2 Tbsp. brown sugar, and 1/4 cup pumpkin puree. 

Pour it over the bread, and use your hands to scrunch it all together, making sure each piece of bread is soaked.  Cover it and put it in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, preheat the oven to 350, uncover the bread, put some pecans on top (if you like that sort of thing, and Mom - I do!  Two weeks ago I started liking pecans, even IN things!), and bake for 35-45 minutes or until it's not wet anymore.  Enjoy - perhaps with some maple syrup or honey.

Pumpkin Overnight Fridge Oatmeal
Put 2 Tbsp. butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar in a small saucepan on the stove over medium heat.  Melt them together until they're a thick sauce.  In a medium sized bowl, mix the brown sugar sauce together with 3 cups uncooked old-fashioned oats, 1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, 1 cup milk, and 1 tsp. cinnamon.  Once it's well-mixed, cover it and put it in the fridge overnight.  The oats will soften in the other ingredients, and in the morning, you'll have oatmeal!  I recommend warming a serving in the microwave, pouring on a little more milk and a bit of maple syrup and perhaps tossing in a few raisins and/or pecans!

Yum.  Now you're ready for whatever fall weather is thrown at you, be it sun and 60 degrees, as it was here yesterday, or rain and 35 degrees, as it will be here tomorrow!  Wherever you are, I like to think of you enjoying a hot, pumpkin-y breakfast before you head off to face your day.  Like Powdermilk Biscuits, these breakfasts will give shy people the strength to get up and do what needs to be done.