Monday, November 28, 2011

Sugar and Spice Pumpkin Seeds

For Halloween this year, our cousin invited us over to carve pumpkins with her and her family.  It was a lot of fun!
Not only did we come out with 4 amazing looking pumpkins, but I had a humongous bag of pumpkin seeds to take home and enjoy.  It actually ended up being more pumpkin seeds than we could eat, but luckily, another cousin came to visit us, and he helped us eat it all.
Phew!  I was just about to toss them too.

You can make pumpkin seeds both savory (salt & pepper) and sweet (cinnamon and sugar), but I always make mine sweet.  Of course, going down the sweet route means a higher risk of coming out with black, bitter, burnt seeds, but when it comes out right.. it tastes soo perfect.

Here is ingredients you will need for the sweet roasted pumpkin seeds.
I had to double the recipe amount since I came out to about 2 cups of pumpkin seeds.
  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter or vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Wash and pat dry your pumpkin seeds with a paper towel. Toss seeds with the butter, sugar, and spices.
Heat oven to 300°. Spread coated seeds in a shallow baking sheet turning from time to time, for about 1 hour to 1.5 hours, or until nicely browned and crunchy.
If you are using 1 cup of seeds, it will most likely be around 1 hour of baking.  But because I had 2 cups of seeds and used 2 baking sheets (with 1 thin layer of seeds per sheet), the 60 mins simply was not enough.  It really took close to 1.5 hours to get the seeds to our desired crunchiness.
I kept my eye on it like a hawk to ensure it did not burn and turn biter.

Seriously, the best pumpkin bread

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving! 
No traditional Thanksgiving for me (we had hot pot at home with my family), but the funny thing is, I went out today and purchased a 15 pound frozen turkey.  It was on clearance at 44 cents per pound, and I plan on making turkey meat floss out of it (more on that later!).
I'm here to blog about my pumpkin bread recipe!

If you have seen me within the last couple of months, chances are, you have eaten my pumpkin bread.
I stumbled upon this recipe by accident one bored evening while surfing the web.  After reading the instructions and realizing that the recipe sounded like a winner, I made the bread that very evening.  After one taste, Jeff and I were in love. (with the bread....  I mean, we ARE in love with each other as well... but I was referring to the bread).

After that, we made pumpkin bread for friends, giving it away when visiting people, serving it to people that came over to our house, and we even brought a loaf to a Thanksgiving pot luck.  There were a couple of weeks where I felt like I was running a pumpkin bread factory out of my own kitchen!
Every one that has tasted it have said they liked it.  And what makes it so special is that, not only is it festive (for fall time), but pumpkin bread not one of those things you can easily find in a store.   And another reason why I like this recipe is because even though I am a crappy baker, I cannot screw up pumpkin bread.

Ready to bake?

What you need:
15 ounce can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup canola oil
2/3 cup water
2.5 cups white sugar
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

What to do:
1. Preheat oven to 350*F. Grease two 9×5 loaf pans.
2. In a large bowl, cream pumpkin, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well combined.
3. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and ground spices. Add dry mixture to wet and beat until all flour has been combined. Pour into prepared pans.
4. Bake for about 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before cutting.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Green onion / scallion pancakes

As most of you dont remember, I made green onion / scallion pancakes (蔥油餅) back in June 2008 and I even blogged about it with step-by-step visual directions.
Of course, 3 years later, I actually forgot how to make it, even after following the steps.  After a really failed attempt, I tried again.
The main problem in my failed attempt was that I added too little water to the dough and by the time I realized it, it was too late to add additional water.  I was stuck with rock-hard dough.

So the key now in making scallion pancakes, is for me to slowly add more and more water until it feels very sticky.  And I'd rather have sticky dough than dough that is too hard and dry, because at least, if the dough is too sticky, you can always add a little flour to fix it.

To make scallion pancakes you will need:
- all purpose flour
- hot-to-warmish water
- minced green onions
- salt  (I also like to add in a little chicken boullion powder into my salt too. hehe.  give it a little extra flavor, rather than just plain ol salt).
- canola oil

I don't have specific proportions for the flour and the water, for fear that I might lead you astray with dough that is hard as a rock.
My suggestion is: in a large sturdy bowl, pour in as much flour as you desire. I use maybe..  4-5 cups of flour?
Then heat up about 3 cups of water, and just slowly drizzle it into your flour, mixing it slowly with your fingers, until it becomes very wet ball of dough.  You probably will have leftover water -- make yourself a cup of tea?  :)
Let your dough rest for about 10 minutes while you start your assembly line:  dough, oil, salt, green onions, cutting board, and rolling pin.

Grab a small dallop of your dough, maybe about the size of a plum, and roll it out on your cutting board, until it is very thin.  drizzle on a thin layer of oil, using your finger to spread it evenly on your pancake.  do the same with the salt.  then do the same with the minced scallions.  Then either cut your dough into 8 flaps and roll them into a ball, or simply roll up the entire pancake into a ball.  Set it aside on a plate.
Repeat the steps above until all your dough is gone.

These dough balls lasts for several days in your fridge, if you store it in tupperware or ziploc bag.

When you are ready to eat, roll out your ball of pancake again, into a very thin  round pancake.  In a skillet, heat up some oil, and fry your pancake on both sides (oil both sides!) until its bubbly, crispy, and golden.
Cut the pancake into 4 pieces using the spatula and enjoy!
It's so tasty and savory... no dipping sauces for me!

Mini Jack O Lanterns (stuffed bell peppers)

For Halloween last year and this year, I made Mini Jack O Lanterns (stuffed bell peppers) to celebrate!

Last year, I was able to find red and orange bell peppers at a decent price, so my stuffed bell peppers really did look like mini pumpkins.  Unfortunately this year, the red and orange bell peppers were at a ridiculous price, so green mini pumpkins it is. 

The difference in bell pepepr color is not the only changes I made, I actually made a number of changes:
- I used ground turkey instead of ground beef because its healthier
- I used rice instead of bread crumbs, since rice is more filling (and cheaper too!)
- Instead of using a lot of hot sauce as the seasoning, I used garlic and herb seasoning instead.

I alloted myself around 1 hour to prepare the jack o lanterns and bake them, but turns out I needed closer to 2 hours!!  I was an hour late to our Halloween pot luck.
Buffer plenty of time to cut the jack o lantern faces on the bell peppers!

The ingredients I used is:
- 6 bell peppers
- 1/2 cup of cooked white rice
- 1 egg
- 1.25 pounds of ground turkey
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp italian seasoning or garlic and herb seasoning
- 2 tsp garlic powder

- 1 tomato, chopped.

- salt and pepper.
- 1 tsp of minced garlic

Wash and cut the tops off the bell pepeprs.  Discard the  the seeds but keep the lid/stem.  This is the top of the jack o lantern's head!
In a pan, brown the onions and minced garlic in a little bit of oil.  I've seen a lot of recipes omit this step, but if you do, you will end up with crunchy-raw-semi-steamed onions!
In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients (other than the bell peppers).  When evenly mixed, distribute the mixture into your 6 bell peppers, and bake the bell peppers (with their lids on) at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes.