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Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

There’s nothing like pumpkin anything to kick off the fall season…  Pumpkin scones, pumpkin spice drinks, and of course pumpkin cream cheese muffins.  Starbucks really knows their pumpkin baked goods….

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(This photo is from a more successful pumpkin season…)  Unfortunately this year’s pumpkin crop in the backyard is pretty much non-existent because I was far too late getting the plants in the ground.  While there is no shortage of foliage to my plants, the actual pumpkins are maybe 2″ diameter and probably wont amount to anything.  Thankfully I still have perfectly good puree preserved from years’ past still in my freezer.  I was aiming for ‘as good as Starbucks’ with this muffin recipe, however I have to say I think these Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins are actually better!

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PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 45 min    YIELD: 12
Ingredients:

Cream Cheese Centre:

  • 4 oz cream cheese (1/2 a package)
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Pumpkin Seed Topping:

  • 1/3 cup pepitas
  • 2 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Pumpkin Muffin Batter:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup and 2 tbsp buttermilk
 Directions:
  1. For Cream Cheese Centres: combine cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla and mix until smooth.  Place in the fridge and chill until you’re ready to use; this makes it a bit easier to handle later.
  2. For Pumpkin Seed Topping (optional, but well worth it): Line a plate or baking tray with parchment paper and set to the side.  Heat large frying pan on medium-high heat, and add pepitas, stirring frequently.  When pepitas begin to pop after 3 to 5 minutes, add the sugar, cinnamon, and salt to the pan.  Stir continuously until the sugar begins to caramelize.  Carefully remove the seeds from the pan and place onto the parchment lined plate to cool.  Once cooled, break apart for sprinkling on top of muffins.
  3. For Pumpkin Muffins:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line muffin tray with paper cups.  Combine dry ingredients: flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, salt, and sugars.  I had substituted coconut palm sugar instead of brown sugar.   Whisk together and set aside.
  4. In large mixing bowl, combine eggs, vanilla, pumpkin puree, canola oil, and buttermilk and mix with an electric mixer just to combine.  Add the dry ingredients to the bowl gradually and mix just until combined, 30-60 seconds.
  5. Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 of the way full with batter.  Add a dollop (about a level teaspoon) of the chilled cream cheese mixture to the centre of each muffin, then cover with remaining batter to fill the muffin cup.  Sprinkle candied pumpkin seed topping on top, then place in oven.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted (not through the cream cheese!) comes out clean.

 

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Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta

Bruschetta is one of those things; there seems to be so many variations and everyone has their own version.  Is it cooked and served warm?  Cold and raw?  Does it have garlic?  onions?  cheese?  vinegar or not?  About the only thing I know for certain, is that usually always involves tomatoes, basil and toast as an open-faced sandwich of sorts.  I guess the same could be said for almost any recipe, but it does surprise me that there seem to be infinite different versions something so simple– and all by the same name.

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And this is my style of bruschetta, and I’ve tried enough to be confident to say this is most definitely my favourite.

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This unseasonably warm weather lately has me getting excited for gardening season (and pining  for fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes!)

PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 25 min YIELD: 4 servings

Ingredients:
  • 3-4 medium mixed variety heirloom tomatoes, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 small onion, diced small (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped, (or substitute 2 tsp dried)
  • 2 heaping tbsp parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • small pinch of salt/pepper to taste
  • French bread, sliced 1/2″ thick
  • olive oil
 Directions:
  1. Preheat broiler to 425F.
  2. Brush oil on sliced bread and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Broil toasts under high heat for ~5 minutes, or until tops just start to brown then remove from oven and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, in small frying pan, fry diced onion in 1 tsp of olive oil just until softened and starting to brown (about 5-8 minutes).  Cooking the onions helps to mellow the strong flavour.
  4. Combine remaining ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and toss in the cooked onions then let the mixture sit for at least 30 min before enjoying.
  5. Don’t top the toasted bread with tomato mixture until you’re ready to serve, otherwise the toasts tend to get a bit soggy.  Garnish with some fresh basil leaves if you’re feeling particularly fancy.
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Leftover Chicken Wrap

These wraps are lovely!  It’s a great use for leftover chicken (or turkey) Even without the wrap (or even the chicken really), the star of this post is the salad and dressing, which would make a great side-dish just own it’s own.

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This recipe is just one of a handful of reasons why I recently ventured out into the cold last week and picked myself up a copy of Jamie Oliver’s “Save with Jamie” cookbook.  I’m skipping a bit ahead in the story, let me go back…It was a typical Saturday late morning and I was perusing the TV channels, looking for something interesting to keep me from doing anything productive.  I stopped when I came across an episode of Jamie’s Money Saving Meals (considering anything with Jamie Oliver is pretty much guaranteed to be entertaining… with phrases like “just wazz it up” and “bang it in my gob”, how can you go wrong?).  Anyway, this episode included a version of this wrap spotlighting leftover chicken as a budget-friendly option (and also a couple other recipes that looked very intriguing).  End result is this book made a nice addition to the collection and I’ve acquired some new/easy dinner ideas that I’m quite excited about.

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PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 30 min YIELD: 2-3 servings

Ingredients:
  • leftover chicken (about 1/2 c or however much you have), pulled apart so it fits reasonably in a wrap
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2-3 10″ soft tortilla shells

Salad:

  • 1 cup fine rice noodles (cover with boiling water, drain after 5-10 min after noodles have softened)
  • half of a yellow pepper, finely sliced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, sliced
  • 2 tbsp green onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup carrot, julienned
  • 1 tbsp fresh chilli pepper or jalapeño pepper
  • 4 large leaves romaine or other green lettuce of choice, sliced
  • grated zest from half a lime

Dressing:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • juice from half a lime (about 3 tbsp)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sweet chilli sauce
 Directions:
  1. In medium frying pan, over medium heat, combine chicken and hoisin sauce and re-heat until chicken starts to go crispy/sticky (~10 minutes)
  2. Meanwhile, mix together dressing ingredients.
  3. Combine salad ingredients and toss together with dressing.
  4. Now, the fun part, stuff the wrap with a little chicken and a whole bunch of salad– a little more than what you think you can reasonably fit into a 10″ tortilla shell
  5. Garnish with a little cilantro and/or sesame seeds if you’re feeling fancy, wrap it up then do your best and try to eat it without making a mess.  It’s best if served immediately (otherwise the tortilla can go a little soggy).
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Guac!

Guacamole that is.  More specifically, easy guacamole for one (or make more to share by multiplying this recipe… your choice).  I, however, have been making single servings these days because my better half is struggling a bit with guac-overload.

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I’m a bit ashamed to admit that awesomeness of the avocado is only a recent discovery for me. This post is my homage to Chili’s Tableside Guacamole, which is really what kicked off my current obsession with this fruit.

PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 10 min    YIELD: 1 serving
Ingredients:
  • 1  avocado, mashed
  • 3 tbsp diced tomatoes (equivalent to 1/2 a Roma tomato)
  • 1 tbsp grated or very finely diced red onion
  • 1 tsp minced jalapeño
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp dried cilantro (or 1 tsp of fresh cilantro finely chopped, if you happen to have)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
 Directions:
  1. Remove skin and pit from avocado, and mash the flesh.  A potato masher works well for this, or alternatively a hand blender or just a fork and a little elbow grease.
  2. Combine remaining ingredients with avocado and serve. This is best if eaten immediately!
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Pizza Sauce

Why buy pre-made pizza sauce when it’s so easy to make yourself with pantry-friendly ingredients?  Who knows.  Well, ok, I do know: because it’s very convenient to go to a store and buy a bottle and of course I’m guilty of his too on the occasion.  HOWEVER, with a little planning ahead, I prefer to make my own.  Simply put, I believe it just tastes nicer, and (like everything that a person makes for themselves) I know what’s in it.

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Make this sauce while you’re waiting for pizza dough to proof.

PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 15 min    YIELD: 2 pizzas
Ingredients:
  • 1 can of plain tomato paste (156 mL)
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 3 tsp finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced (or substitute 1 tsp of dried garlic powder)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
 Directions:
  1. In small bowl, combine all ingredients and allow to sit for at least ~15 minutes before using.  Use right away on pizza or as desired, keep refrigerated for 2-3 days, or (what I like to do) make a bigger batch of it then portion it out and freeze it for future use.
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Garlic Scape Basil Pesto

I’m still over the moon with my recent discovery of Garlic Scapes.  Craving some garlic’y pasta goodness, I decided to try  my hand at Garlic Scape Basil Pesto.  I adapted my regular go-to recipe for Basil Pesto for the substitution.

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PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 15 min    YIELD: ~2 cups
Ingredients:
  • 7 to 8 large garlic scapes
  • 1  and 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
 Directions:
  1. Cut garlic scapes in approx 1/2 inch to 1 inch long pieces then add to food processor, along with fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, salt, and lemon juice.  Process, and gradually add olive oil and mix until mixture is a fine consistency.
  2. Add grated parmesan and mix to combine.
  3. Stir the pesto into your favourite cooked pasta, or portion and freeze for future use.
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Fruit Salsa and Cinnamon Chips

This dish is always popular at potlucks.  It’s probably one of my favourites because it’s sweet, but not heavy (like maybe a piece of cake or a few cookies), which makes it perfect for summer.  It’s also easily adaptable to what fresh fruit might be readily available.

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PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 45 min    YIELD: 1 L
Ingredients:

Fruit Salsa:

  • 1 granny smith apple
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 nectarines (or peaches)
  • 2 kiwis
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • 2 tsp fruit preserves (I prefer apricot jam)

Cinnamon Chips:

  • 8 10″ diameter plain soft tortillas
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp melted butter (or margarine)
 Directions:
  1. For fruit salsa: first peel apple, and dice into small’ish salsa-sized pieces.  Mix apple with lemon juice right away to avoid apple from browning.  Peel and dice nectarines and kiwis.  Hull and dice strawberries and mix with remainder of the fruit.  Add 2 tsp fruit preserves (or to taste).  Chill the mix until you’re ready to serve.
  2. For cinnamon chips: Preheat oven to 375 F.  Mix cinnamon, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together.  Brush melted butter on tortilla, and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Cut into chip-sized triangular pieces (a pizza-cutter works well for this) and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Bake for ~8 min or until just starting to brown (do not over cook!).
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Raspberry Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

This barbecue sauce-making adventure began with a salad dressing recipe, strangely enough. For the back-story read this previous post on my experiments with homemade raspberry vinegar.  A long story short, I ended up with some vinegar-soaked raspberries that I needed to find a use for.  After it was all said and done, I will admit I’m happier about the sauce than I was the vinegar.

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This sauce is great on steak, burgers, probably anything else you can think to slather it on.  The berry flavour was quite subtle, and the chipotles provide a nice hum of heat.  On my first go-around with this recipe, I was a bit too bold with the chipotles and added 5 or 6 of them (they looked so small)… next time I will stick with 2.

 

PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: YIELD: 1 L
Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium sized onion, diced
  • 1/2 green pepper, diced
  • 2 to 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups raspberries (and/or mix in some blackberries as well)
  • 1 can of plain tomato sauce (398 mL)
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp cooking molasses
  • 3/4 tsp paprika
  • 3 tbsp honey (or coconut palm sugar, or brown sugar)
  • salt/pepper to taste
 Directions:
  1. Heat olive oil in large saucepan.  Add onion and green pepper and cook until onion is soft and translucent.
  2. Add remaining ingredients, and puree  the mixture until a smooth consistency and there are no big pieces remaining.
  3. Over medium heat, simmer for ~30 min or until sauce thickens.
  4. Store the sauce in the fridge for up to a week and/or freeze in freezer safe containers for longer-term storage and future use.
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Raspberry Vinegar

This started out with me trying a new recipe for a raspberry vinaigrette, which was a bit less than successful because I substituted red wine vinegar for the called-for raspberry vinegar. Determined to make a mends to the vinaigrette recipe, I went looking for raspberry vinegar, but ultimately decided it wasn’t worth the exorbitant price at the grocery store, especially considering I couldn’t think of many uses for a whole bottle.

I guess I feeling particularly adventurous when I came across the idea of making home-made raspberry vinegar. Intriguing, and seemingly easy and more cost effective. I found this blog post from The Yummy Life on the subject.

I realize it’s not a true DIY vinegar, as there was no fermenting involved here.  I generally followed the recipe as directed and tweaked the type of vinegar used ever so slightly, and ended up with a beautifully red liquid, with subtle raspberry flavour.

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What about those leftover raspberries? Make Raspberry Chipotle Barbecue Sauce.

PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: YIELD: 1 jar
Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup loose fresh raspberries (or frozen unsweetened)
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • white wine vinegar to fill the jar
 Directions:
  1. Wash berries well, and add to 500 mL mason jar.
  2. Add vinegars, fill to top.
  3. Seal and refrigerate for 2 weeks.
  4. Strain mixture through cheesecloth, and transfer to a resealable container.
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Taco Seasoning

I prefer making my own taco seasoning as opposed to buying pre-packaged because then I know exactly what’s in it, and can limit the amount of salt added.

Not only is it a healthier alternative than the store bought alternative, but it’s also easy to make with seasonings I usually have handy in the pantry.  Try making a bigger batch to store in an air-tight container for future use.

PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: YIELD: 1
Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt
 Directions:
  1. Combine all ingredients.  Use immediately or save in air tight container for future use.