Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce

Happy Halloween!

Unfortunately, due to the weather effects of Hurricane Sandy, our township has decided to postpone trick-or-treating until Saturday.  However, the city is still holding its trick-or-treat hours as previously scheduled tonight from 6:00-8:00pm.  I heard a little kid at the gym yesterday telling his Mother about his plans to go trick-or-treating both nights and load up on the goodies:  "I'll get so much candy, Mom!  More than I ever could have before!  It's like a Halloween miracle!"

At least someone is happy about it.

I just hope that we do not run out of candy like we did the first year we were married.  Paul and I had bought big bags of Twix, Snickers, and Almond Joys to pass out to eager trick-or-treaters.  However, none came.  Apparently our complex was not a popular Halloween hot spot   Wallowing in feelings of rejection and disappointment, Paul and I consumed the entire bowl of candy.  I had just finished unwrapping the last Twix bar when our doorbell rang.  Paul answered and revealed a tiny army of little toddlers, dressed in the cutest little outfits that included everything from Winnie-the-Pooh to Spider-man.  Paul and I could not turn them away empty handed.  The cuteness factor was almost overwhelming.  While Paul told them to wait, I dashed into the kitchen and opened up our freezer where we normally kept a small stash of candy.  I pulled out some Dove dark chocolate eggs leftover from Easter as well as two solid 1-pound milk chocolate bunnies.  I gave each child a handful of the chocolate eggs and plopped the massive chocolate bunnies into the bags of the two youngest.  The force from the drop of the bunny monstrosities was so great that the little tykes just about dropped their treat bags.  However, there was no doubt that their eyes widened with pleasure when they saw how big that piece of chocolate was.

After they left, we shut off our lights and hid in our bedroom to avoid any other trick-or-treaters.  We really did not have anything left!

Even though the Halloween festivities are postponed, I proceeded to prepare a pumpkin-themed dessert for this evening.  The other day, my dear friend Eva, a remarkable scientist and a foodie in her own right, sent me a recipe for a pumpkin bread pudding.  And I had to make it right away.  I have no idea how she knew, but my crazy, pregnant self was craving bread pudding over the past few days.  The idea of a decadent version made with pumpkin sounded too good to be true!  Add in a bit of salted caramel sauce and I might just eat the whole pan by myself hot out of the oven!

The BEST part about bread pudding is how easy it comes together.  I had some challah in the freezer (I always have challah in the freezer it seems!) and I just took it out the day before baking, chopped it into 1/2-inch cubes and then let it sit out, uncovered, overnight to properly stale.  The next morning, I made the pumpkin custard, tossed it with the bread cubes, and poured it into the baking pan.  I let it hang out in the fridge until I was ready to bake in the mid-afternoon.  The caramel sauce was made while the pudding was baking in the oven.  Easy, simple, and it can all be made ahead of time and reheated gently before serving!

If I don't eat it all first...

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce
adapted from Epicurious

For the Bread Pudding:
2 cups whole milk
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1 cup packed plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
10 cups of 1/2-inch cubed challah

For the Salted Caramel Sauce:
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel (or to taste)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk half and half, pumpkin, dark brown sugar, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and vanilla extract in large bowl to blend. Fold in bread cubes. Transfer mixture to 11x7-inch glass baking dish. Let stand at least 15 minutes (this can be covered and refrigerated for a few hours before baking). Bake pumpkin bread pudding until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the caramel sauce by whisking the brown sugar and butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until the butter melts. Whisk in cream and stir until sugar dissolves and sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes.  Whisk in the fleur de sel until combined.

Serve the pudding warm with a generous drizzle of caramel sauce.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Marbled Rye Bread

This Friday evening turned out to be cold and rainy.  Paul and I had planned on making a soup or stew for dinner, popping a big bowl of popcorn, and then cuddling under a fleece blanket with Matthew to watch a classic Disney movie.

Instead, we spent four hours in the Emergency Room listening to our little guy scream and wail as several Doctors tried desperately to dislodge an almond from his right nostril.

There are many, many stories of kids sticking foreign objects up their noses.  Almost anyone you meet has a story about how their kid had shoved a bead, a pea, or a button up their nose.  This scenario has been the subject of multiple sitcom episodes as well, all ending with the well-meaning parent completely flipping out and taking their child to the hospital.  Whenever I heard a story of this nature, I always laughed along while secretly thinking in the back of my mind: "My kid will never do anything that stupid."

Well, kids will be kids.  And my child proved to be no different than that strange little kid on the sitcom.  While eating a snack, he somehow found half of a whole almond and shoved it as far up his little nasal passage as it would go.  And then proceeded to scream bloody murder.

Paul and I rushed to his aid, for his cries sounded a little more desperate than his usual whines.  Plus, he was turning a wonderful scarlet that was a major hint that something was wrong (as parents, our deductive reasoning skills are spot on!).

There was a very clear bulge near the corner of his right eye and he was frantically clawing at his nose.  His eye was already bloodshot from the pressure the nut was causing.  Paul and I pinned him down on the carpet, grabbed a flashlight, and could just see the end of the nut (it was clearly a nut!) far up his nose.  With a pair of tweezers, and while trying to hold down our flailing child, I managed to move it a bit further down, but could not quite grab a-hold of it to pull it out completely.  We didn't want to cause any further damage, so we packaged up our wailing child and headed off to the nearest Urgent Care clinic.

Once we got there, the Doctor tried to expel the object by initially having us plug the unclogged nostril while giving him a strong puff of air through his mouth (aka mouth-to-mouth resuscitation style).  Yeah, that worked well.  It made Matthew freak out even more and failed to move the nut an iota.  Then, the Doctor had us pin Matthew down again (with the help of three other nurses) and he tried to take it out.  However, he succeeded in only shoving the nut further up, to the point where it was no longer clearly visible.  With a shaky voice, he told us to head over to the ER, claiming: "I'm so so sorry, but that thing is just impossible to get out!"  He had a reason to be nervous.  Paul was getting ready to sue his a**.

At the ER, the Doctor and four nurses tried to use an aspirator and tweezers to extract the nut.  This only resulted in poor Matthew bleeding profusely from his nostril and screaming so hard that he blew out multiple capillaries in his face.  A nice bruise was also starting to form around his eye.  Poor baby.  Despite his pain, he still managed to squeak out a couple of Tigger squeals:  "Whoo-hoo-hoo-Hoo!"  Always showing off, even while traumatized.

Finally, an ENT was called in to do the job.  A skinny, 20-something-year-old, fresh from medical school, he actually reminded me a lot of a friend from college.  And he knew what to do.  He snaked a little wired tool normally used for cleaning out ears and was able to pop it out in about a minute flat.  All other attempts had taken much, much longer.  We should have called that guy in sooner.

Paul and I were so relieved that this whole thing was over (Paul in all honesty could not stop's a weird little way he copes with the after-effects of stress), that we swung by the store to pick up a quart of ice cream for Matthew and some sandwiches for dinner as sort of a celebratory ending to the whole ordeal.  And we made sure to pick out an ice cream that did not contain nuts.

Our poor little patient...

In honor of Mr. Matthew, I have a nut-free recipe to share today for Marbled Rye Bread.  Basically, it is just a light-colored rye dough rolled with a dark-colored rye dough to produce the characteristic swirl effect.  This bread is so easy to make and results in two large, delicious loaves.  Perfect for Reuben sandwiches, tuna melts, or simple ham-and-hot mustard sandwiches.  Delish.  The recipe comes from Peter Reinhart, whose books have taught me more about bread than I ever thought possible.  He calls every recipe a "formula"...I love it!  Makes me feel as if I am back in the lab again.

Marbled Rye Bread
adapted lightly from The Bread Baker's Apprentice

For the Light Rye:
1 1/2 cups white rye flour
3 cups unbleached flour or bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons butter, shortening, or oil (I used oil)
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons water, at room temperature

For the Dark Rye:
1 1/2 cups white rye flour
3 cups unbleached flour or bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons butter, shortening, or oil (I used oil)
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons water, at room temperature
2 tablespoons cocoa powder dissolved in 2 tablespoons water

To make the light rye, stir together the flours, salt, yeast, and caraway seeds in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add the molasses, fat of choice, and 1 1/4 cups water.  With the paddle attachment, mix until the dough starts to gather all the loose flour and form a ball, about 1 minute on low speed.  Add the additional 2 tablespoons of water only if needed.  Switch to the dough hook and continue to knead on medium-low speed for 4-6 minutes, or until the dough feels supple, pliable, and a little tacky.  The dough should not be sticky.  Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer to the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

To make the dark rye, stir together the flours, salt, yeast, and caraway seeds in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add the molasses, fat of choice, 1 1/4 cups water, and the dissolved cocoa powder.  Mix with the paddle attachment until the dough gathers into a ball, adding the additional 2 tablespoons of water only if necessary.  Switch to the dough hook and continue kneading on medium-low speed for 4-6 minutes, adding sprinkles of flour if necessary, until the dough feels supple, pliable, and a little tacky.  Lightly oil another large bowl and transfer the dough to it, rolling it around to coat completely.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Allow both doughs to proof at room temperature for approximately 90 minutes or until they double in size.

Turn each dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Divide each dough into 4 even-sized pieces (for a total of 8 pieces of dough, 4 dark and 4 light).  Roll out each piece with a rolling pin into a rough oblong about 5 inches wide and 8 inches long.  Take a light rye piece and lay a dark rye piece on top, then add a light rye piece, then one more dark rye piece.  Roll the stack up, pressing on the seam as you roll, until you have formed a rough batard shape.  Seal the bottom seam tightly by pinching.  Repeat with the remaining dough to form two marbled loaves.

Place each loaf in a greased loaf pan.  Mist the top of each loaf with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Proof at room temperature for 60-90 minutes or until they nearly double in size.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

When the loaves have proofed, bake them for 45 minutes, rotating them 180 degrees after 20 minutes for even baking.  The loaves are done when the internal temperature of the loaves reaches 190 degrees.

When they have finished baking, remove the loaves from the oven and immediately remove them from the baking pans.  Allow to cool the loaves completely on a wire rack before slicing and serving.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette

This is, hands down, my absolute favorite fall salad.  I have been obsessed with butternut squash to a frightening degree this season and cannot stop eating it.  I have made this salad no less than four times in the past two weeks because it is that good!  Plus, Paul also really, really likes it.  He is obsessed with arugula almost as much as I am obsessed with squash.

The recipe is infinitely adaptable.  I have used roasted, cubed sweet potatoes instead of the squash.  The Parmesan has been switched out for other salty cheeses, such as Gorgonzola or Feta.  Hate Walnuts?  Use roasted pecans instead!  I also like to occasionally throw a handful of roasted pumpkin seeds on top, because I like them so much.  But only when I plan on eating the whole batch by myself (Paul scorns all seeds that are not sunflower!).

This would make a delicious and different salad to serve at Thanksgiving dinner!

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette
adapted from The Barefoot Contessa

For the squash:

1 1/2-pounds butternut squash, peeled and 3/4-inch diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Maple Syrup (do not use maple-flavored pancake syrup)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons dried cranberries

For the vinaigrette:
3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon Maple Syrup
1/4 - 1/2 cup olive oil

For the salad:
4 ounces baby arugula, washed and spun dry
1/2 cup walnuts halves, toasted
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the maple syrup, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender. Add the cranberries to the pan for the last 5 minutes.

While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6-8 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Pour everything into the blender along with the mustard, maple syrup, salt, and pepper.  Give it a good whiz until everything is combined.  Slowly add in the oil, beginning with 1/4 cup.  Add more if the dressing is not thick enough, but usually I find that a little over 1/3 cup is usually the right amount of oil for this dressing otherwise it is a bit too oily.

Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture, the walnuts, and the grated Parmesan. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten and toss well. Serve immediately.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Granola

Beware....rant to follow.

The past few days, I have really been trying hard to remain patient with my husband.  I am proud of him...I love him...and I am incredibly grateful for how hard he works to provide for the family.  He is a wonderful father to our son and is an awesome sport when it comes to putting up with my shenanigans.

However, he is driving me crazy.

Paul's job is extremely demanding.  Coupled with a perfectionist personality when it comes to his engineering work, this basically means that my husband is a complete workaholic.  Again, I am very grateful that he has such a great job that allows me to stay home raising our kids, but I still would really like him to be involved at home.  Or to at least pretend that the family interests him as much as the current crisis situation at work.

Did I mention that he is a perfectionist?  Well, so am I.  And when it comes to our home, I am an extreme neat freak.  This is probably my greatest vice, because messes drive me to the point of lunacy. And the messiest individual around here is not the energetic toddler, but the other perfectionist in the household.  Paul is so detailed and thorough about his work, however not a second thought is given to throwing his clothes in a gigantic heap on the bedroom floor, leaving a wet towel on the bathroom floor, or throwing his coat over the back of the dining room chair even though the closet is less than four feet away!  (When I confronted him about the coat in particular, he pointed out that he left it out because he would be using it again in the morning...Oh, thanks for clearing that up for me!  I understand how that epic walk to the closet can be incredibly draining).

When he came home from a trip last week, I unpacked his suitcase for him, washed his clothes from the trip, and then folded and put them away.  I figured that he was probably exhausted and would appreciate the extra help.  However, there were a few tools and mechanical parts at the bottom of the suitcase and I was unsure where to put them.  I asked him to finish unpacking the rest of the suitcase and then to haul the bag down to the basement.  Over a week later, that suitcase and all the tools therein is still sitting in our bedroom completely untouched.

I am trying not to nag him (rather, I simply remind him that he is a slug), but at the same time I am not his maid and I refuse to pick up after him.  That being said, I am having the most difficult time passing the ever-growing "Mount Paul" at the bottom of our closet without growing more peeved at him.  I'll probably not be able to contain myself any further and clean it all up this afternoon.  Maybe that's all part of his plan...(genius!)

Since I am already in the middle of a husband roast, another pet peeve of mine is that Paul will not eat breakfast unless there is something 100% convenient for him to grab and quickly swallow.  My breakfast staple is a bowl of quick oats and even that is too much effort for him.  As he explained to me, he prefers to have a big bowl of sugary cereal that instantly dissolves so much in the milk that he does not even have to chew.  Seriously, who is this guy I married?

However, he will slow down and eat granola if it is offered to him.  He adores granola.  Since I would prefer that he consume a nutritious breakfast before he heads to work (and slow down and enjoy eating once in a while), I am more than happy to keep our shelves stocked with some homemade granola.  I always make granola in bulk (enough to fill three large cereal bins) because it ends up being less expensive if I buy the nuts, dried fruit, and oats all in bulk.  Plus, that guarantees that I don't make to make another batch for at least a couple months.

This time around, I made a Fall-inspired Pumpkin Spice Granola.  It actually has no oil in it, making it a bit healthier than the typical granola you buy at the grocery store.  With the subtle flavors of pumpkin pie, this is a great granola to eat with some warm milk poured over (even better with almond milk!).

And Paul now dedicates a full 10 minutes in the morning to munch through a bowl of delicious granola.  Score!

Pumpkin Spice Granola
adapted from Baked Bree

5 cups rolled oats
2 cups crispy rice cereal
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the rolled oats, cereal, and brown sugar.  In another bowl, combine the pumpkin, maple syrup, applesauce, spices, salt, and vanilla.  Whisk really, really well.  Pour the pumpkin mixture into the oat mixture and gently toss together until the oats are evenly coated (do not be afraid to get your hands in there!).

Spread the granola onto a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Take the granola out and stir it around. Bake another 20-25 minutes or until the granola gets crisp, stirring every 8 minutes or so. Keep an eye on it to ensure that it does not burn!

Take the granola out and mix in the cranberries and almonds.  Let cool completely on a wire rack before transferring to an airtight container.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Butternut Squash Alfredo Sauce

Matthew is pretty much obsessed with anything pumpkin.  He makes his mother proud.

I had to share this recipe quickly before I forgot what I did to throw it together.  It was absolutely divine. Paul rated the dish in its entirety one of his "favorite dishes ever."  As I have mentioned earlier, he is a huge fan of Spaghetti Squash.  And who doesn't love it?  The stringy, fibrous innards make a wonderful, low-carb replacement for pasta!

In addition to my plethora of butternut squash, I had recently purchased a fair amount of spaghetti squash to use for our weeknight meals.  I then had the brilliant idea of using both types of squash to make a dish - namely, a Butternut Squash Alfredo Sauce to be served over roasted spaghetti squash.  And then sprinkled with bacon (because bacon and squash is a match made in heaven!).

When I mentioned the idea to Paul while at the grocery store earlier in the week, his skeptical reply was: "Sounds like a lot of squash."

Oh ye of little faith.

Two days later, he was ravenously gobbling down his third serving of this delicious dish and singing my praises.  What an easy way to get the vegetable-hating husband to eat about five healthy servings in one sitting!

If you decide to give this a whirl, and I do hope that you will, try to use a combination of Cooper cheese and mild cheddar for the sauce.  I'm sure whatever cheese you use will be delicious, but that was the combination we threw in and it was absolutely killer.  You could also toss the sauce with regular pasta and it will be similar to a Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese.  This is good stuff.

And the bacon is purely optional...but it is a really awesome garnish! (Note: I garnished mine with some chopped almonds as well as seen pictured above).

The pictures are absolutely horrible because it has been getting dark at 6:00 pm, making it really difficult to get any decent lighting.  So if you think the dish looks gross in the picture, it is probably just the lighting.

Butternut Squash Alfredo Sauce

3 strips of bacon (or more if you are a true carnivore!)
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 cup roasted butternut squash puree (not store bought!)
1 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon fresh sage (do not use dry!)
1 cup grated cheese
Salt and Pepper

Cook the bacon in a skillet set over medium heat until crispy.  Set aside to drain on paper towels and reserve 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease.  When the bacon is cool, crumble into coarse pieces.

In a small stockpot, heat the grease (if you omit the bacon, use a tablespoon of butter or olive oil) and the minced garlic over medium heat until fragrant and bubbly.  Add the butternut squash puree and until it is heated and has absorbed the garlic, about 1 minute.  Gradually whisk in the half-and-half until the squash is completely absorbed.  Stir in the fresh sage.  Continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture begins to bubble.  Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheese until completely melted.  Ladle sauce over individual servings of spaghetti squash and garnish with bacon pieces and shredded Parmesan.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

TWD: Bagels

For this week's installment of Tuesdays with Dorie, the bloggers tackled a delightful bagel recipe that was easy and kind of fun to make.  The dough comes together very easily and then just hangs out in the fridge overnight before being shaped into the traditional bagel shape, boiled in sugared water, and then baked until the crust is crisp and deeply browned.  The most time consuming part was boiling the bagels.  It was a slightly tedious task to perform with the toddler tugging on my pants, chanting: "Bagels...please?"  His favorite snack in the whole entire world is a bagel and as soon as he saw how I was shaping the dough, he knew that some carb-laden goodness was heading his way.

I chose to make half the bagels into "Everything Bagels" by making a topping of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, minced onion, garlic, and kosher salt.  The topping got very, very brown with the long baking time, and I was worried that it would end up tasting burnt.  However, it actually tasted pretty residual char whatsoever.

We enjoyed the fresh bagels for breakfast topped with lightly scrambled eggs, crumbled bacon, and melted Cooper cheese.  Nothing beats freshly made bagels for breakfast.

While I did enjoy this recipe immensely, Peter Reinhart's bagel recipe still has my heart.  Those bagels turn out a lot more chewy and have an added depth of flavor that seemed to be missing from these.  However, this is an excellent recipe to use if you are a bit short on time, as the Peter Reinhart recipe requires a bit more "babysitting" of the dough.

If you would like to give these a try, our host Heather has the recipe posted on her blog!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Pizza

We have been keeping busy around here and enjoying the wonderful Fall weather.  Fall has always been my favorite time of year.  I love the changing colors of the leaves, the many different varieties of squash that finally come into season, the smell of freshly baked apple pie, and all the cute little pumpkins that begin popping up on porches all over the neighborhood.  Not to mention, the Columbus Day Sales are awesome.  Matthew and I picked out some new kicks.

Harvest season is in full swing and all the local farms offer a variety of fun activities for adults and kids alike.  I took Matthew to one of my favorite local farms where they had an entire "Pumpkintown" mini-theme park set up for toddlers, complete with a wide variety of inflatable structures, a corn maze, a haunted house, and free piping hot apple cider.  At first, Matthew was very apprehensive about partaking in all the inflatable fun.  However, once I pushed him into the "pumpkin jump," he began to perk up.  Then I could not get him out when his time was up.  I had to crawl in there after him.  It is not easy to chase him around in an inflatable pumpkin that was not built to support your body weight.  I felt like the whole thing was going to collapse.

Then we headed to a gigantic inflatable slide.  The kids were instructed to hold onto ropes and pull themselves up to the top.  The attendant thought Matthew was too little to climb up all by himself, but I insisted that he let him give it a shot.  I had taken Matthew to a mini rock climbing wall a few weeks previously and he did fantastically well.  He made it all the way to the top of the wall fairly easily.  Anyway, he was not afraid of climbing up to the top of this slide.  Slowly but surely, he gripped and pulled his way to the very top where he triumphantly sat, waving and smiling.  Obviously, he was very proud of his achievement.  

However, when it came time for him to come down the slide...he wasn't so sure.  He begged for me to come get him, but I told him that the only way he was coming down was via the slide.  He finally went for it.  You can almost see the terror on his face.  He was all smiles at the bottom.

I tried to get a few photos with the props they had scattered throughout the farm.  Matthew did not understand the concept...

...Finally I got him to smile and poke his head through by playing peek-a-boo.

Matthew's favorite part of the whole outing (besides eating popcorn and drinking cider) was the corn maze.  He was all about taking the lead through the maze.  Every time he led us to a dead end, he would cry "OH NO!" and then giggle, turn around, and try another route.  He was actually amazingly good at figuring his way through it.  He must have a built-in GPS (unlike both his Mother and his Father).

Afterwards, we had to make our way through the market and buy some fresh produce.  I got a little overly excited by the beautiful butternut squash they had for a mere $0.15/pound.  I ended up buying a bushel.  Which means that I came home with about 25 perfect butternut squashes.  Which means that I will be making a lot of recipes featuring butternut squash.

This pizza recipe was inspired by a couple of recipes that I have spotted throughout the web over the past couple of years.  I combined my favorite elements from a couple of them and came up with the result below.  It was a divine, delicious, and different pizza (don't you just love the alliteration?).  The sweetness from the butternut squash paired perfectly with the creamy, mild flavor of the roasted garlic white sauce.  The Parmesan added a wonderful salty element to the whole thing.  Next time, I will probably scatter some bacon pieces over the top (I adore the combination of butternut squash and crispy bacon).  This would also be wonderful with some toasted walnuts scattered on top as a garnish.  If you are not a fan of thyme, try using some fresh rosemary or sage.  Leave it out all together if you are skeptical...but this is one seriously tasty dish.

Even Matthew ate it.  Not that his opinion matters much...he also tried cat food for the first time yesterday and apparently found it quite tasty.

Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Pizza

For Sauce:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
3/4 cup milk
6 tablespoons Parmesan
1-2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves

For the Pizza:
1 recipe of your favorite pizza dough
1-2 pounds Butternut Squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 head of garlic, papery skins removed from the outside and the top cut off
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
4-5 slices thick bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)

1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan Cheese
1-2 cups mozzarella

To prepare the squash and garlic, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  On a baking sheet, toss the squash with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.  Place the garlic head on the sheet and drizzle some olive oil over the top.  Roast for 15-20 minutes, or until the squash is fork-tender. Remove the squash and continue roasting the garlic until it is soft and fragrant (about 10 minutes more).  When cool enough to handle, pop the softened garlic cloves out of their skins and mash into a paste with a fork.  Set aside while you prepare the white sauce.

Place a pizza stone in your oven and set the temperature for 500 degrees.  Let the oven preheat with the stone for at least 20 minutes before placing the assembled pizza inside to bake.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium high heat in a small saucepan.  Add the flour and whisk continuously until golden brown and bubbly, about 1 minutes.  Slowly whisk in the milk in a steady stream.  Continue to whisk the mixture until it thickens to the consistency of heavy cream.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheese and thyme.  Whisk in half of the garlic mash.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To prepare the pizza, spread the white sauce over the top of your prepared pizza dough leaving a 1-inch border.  Scatter the red onion, bacon (if using), and butternut squash over the top.  Sprinkle with the cheeses.  Carefully slide the pizza onto the hot pizza stone and bake for 8-12 minutes (depending on your dough recipe) or until the cheese is melted and the crust has browned.  Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

TWD: Cranberry Walnut Pumpkin Loaf

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe featured a Cranberry Walnut Pumpkin Loaf.  At first, I thought this would just be another pumpkin quick bread.  Not that I have anything against quick breads (they are delicious), but they are not really all that fun to make.  They make a nice, quick snack in a pinch, but the basic method is pretty much the same for all quick breads, involving at maximum about 20 minutes to throw together.  Nothing too exciting.  I really do enjoy the involved process of baking different types of yeast breads.  You can imagine my excitement when I opened my copy of Baking with Julia and discovered that this was, in fact, a yeast bread!  And a yeast bread absolutely stuffed with all my favorite Fall flavors: pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon, cranberries, raisins, and walnuts.

I did end up making a couple changes to the recipe.  For one, I could not find fresh cranberries in my grocery store.  So, I substituted a generous portion of dried.  I also could not resist adding a cinnamon-swirl to the center of the loaf.  I simply rolled out the dough to an 11x14 rectangle, brushed the surface generously with milk, sprinkled about 1/4 cup of cinnamon-sugar all over the surface, and then rolled up the loaf nice and tight.

The dough itself was a breeze to throw together.  My son even joined in by guarding the stand mixer as it slapped the dough around during the kneading process.  He was tickled pink when I let him add in the cranberries, raisins, and walnuts.  His excitement pretty quickly turned to horror when the mixer kicked up quite a bit of the dried fruit right back in his face.  After that he refused to help anymore.  Baking is just too dangerous.

I did end up making one large loaf in a 9x5" pan and this definitely changed the baking time from 35 minutes to closer to 55 minutes.  The bread rose beautifully during the baking process, producing a very tall loaf that came precariously close to touching the oven coils.  I ended up covering the pan with foil a little later than I should have...but the crust did not taste charred.

And the taste?  Superb.  The pumpkin kept the loaf perfectly moist and the sweetness level was perfect.  I cannot wait to make a couple different types of sandwiches with this bread.  This was definitely my favorite recipe from the book so far!

Thanks to Rebecca for being our host for this week.  If you would like to give the recipe a try, she has the recipe in its entirety up on her blog.  Or you could just buy the book.  It's a worthwhile investment...every recipe has been fantastic so far!