Pumpkin Ginger Soup with Shrimp

My friend Elizabeth is having fun learning how to cook new things, and every now and then we get together, and I introduce her to new foods.  She came over the other day, and we did just that.  It was a cold day, although nothing like what it has been these past few days, so I thought it would be a good day for soup.  I also had a lot of pumpkins that needed to be used.  We made a pumpkin and shrimp soup that came out really, really good.  I took my pumpkin Parmesan bread out of the freezer and served that with the soup, along with a crisp white blend.   It was the perfect late lunch on a cold and dreary day.

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Pumpkin Ginger Soup with Shrimp

Make the soup first, then top it with the cooked shrimp, along with a dollop of sour cream and chives if you like.

The Soup

2 TBSP olive oil

1 medium onion, diced fine

1 TBSP garlic

1 TBSP ginger

2-3 lbs of pumpkin

3 celery stalks

4 cups chicken stock

1- 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

salt & pepper to taste

2 tsp fresh sage

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I made my own chicken stock that we used.   In a large soup pot, heat the oil and saute the onions and celery until they are both translucent.  Then add the garlic, ginger and the pumpkin, and cover with the stock.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue cook for about 30-45 minutes, or until all the vegetables are soft and tender.

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Once the vegetables are all cooked, add the cream and puree the whole mixture.  When the soup is pureed, set it aside and keep it warm.

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The Shrimp

1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 TBSP olive oil

1 TBSP ginger

1 TBSP garlic

red pepper flakes to taste

1 TBSP lemon juice

sour cream

chives

 

Saute the first ingredients together until the shrimp is cooked.  Then add the lemon juice and mix well.

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I think dancing around the shrimp brought out all the flavors.

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Quality control.  We had to make sure it came out all right before serving, right?!

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A cool, crisp white blend was the perfect addition to make the lunch complete.

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Thank You to All Those Who Serve

With today being Veteran’s Day, I am just going to give a big THANK YOU to all those who serve and all those who have served and to all those who put their life on the line everyday to keep us all safe.

My daddy in his Australian Army uniform – circa 1940 WWII, before being shipped off to fight in North Africa. This picture was taken outside of Melbourne, Australia, where he was from.  Thank you Daddy, and to everyone else who fought to make the world a better place.

Daddy

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

I love cookies.  I also love anything and everything pumpkin.   And it is prime pumpkin season, so of course, I am going to combine these two great flavors to make something really special, especially just in time for Thanksgiving.  One of our fellow blogger friends, My Life as A Mom, posted about her pumpkin spice cookies back in October.  Ever since I saw her post, I have been “Jonesin'” to make these incredible looking seasonal cookies.  I just knew I would be making these in the very near future, although I was hoping to have made them long before today.   They did get made today though, and they are every bit as scrumptious as I knew they would be.   So hats off and kudos to My Life As a Mom for this delicious inspiration.  I love these cookies.  The only things I would do differently would be to bake them a little longer since I prefer crunchier cookies to soft cookies, and chill them in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before baking to have them set, but other than that, they are just perfect.

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Pumpkin Spice Cookies

2 3/4  cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2  tsp of either pumpkin pie spice or 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp allspice and 1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp salt

1 stick butter, softened

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups sugar

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Preheat the oven to 350* F

Spray you cookie sheets with cooking spray

 

Mix all your dry ingredients together and set aside.

Blend the butter and sugar together until light and creamy.  Then add the egg, pumpkin and vanilla.  Mix well.  Add 1/3 of the flour and mix until just incorporated, then repeat until all the flour is mixed into the dough.

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Once the dough is made, fit a pastry bag with a fluted tip and fill the bag about 2/3 full with the dough, then pipe the dough in a 2×2 circle onto the prepared cookie sheet.

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Spice Topping

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp of either pumpkin pie spice or 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp allspice

 

Mix everything together and add about 1/3 tsp to the cookies.  Chill in he refrigerator for about 30 minutes before putting them into the oven.  Bake for about 12-15 minutes for softer cookies or about 18 minutes if you like crispier cookies.  Let cool for about 5-7 minutes on the cookie sheet before placing them on a cookie rack to continue to cool.

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The end result – DELICIOUS!!!  It’s hard to stop at just one, or two ….

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Baked Parmesan Halibut with Tomato Buerre Rouge

Halibut is one of my absolute favorite types of fish.  It is a thick whitefish with a steak-like quality to it.  The best halibut is found in very cold waters.   However, living in Denver, fresh halibut is hard to come by, and when it is easily obtainable, it is usually too expensive to buy, so unfortunately, I do not get to eat it nearly as often as I would like.  When I do purchase it and get to eat it though, it is always a special treat to me, and I always make the most of it by preparing it in a very tasty way.  This time was no exception.  I added a crispy coating and baked it, then topped it with a delicious dill buerre rouge, or a dill red butter sauce, that just brought the dish to life and made the flavors really pop.  I complimented the meal with some creamy scalloped potatoes and Brussels sprouts cooked with apples and bacon and pumpkin Parmesan bread that i took out of the freezer.  Savory Sweet Pumpkin-Parmesan Bread  I finished the dish with a crisp chardonnay that had hints of citrus, apples and melon.  I was in seafood Heaven.

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Baked Parmesan Halibut

1 lb halibut or white fish or your choice

1 cup corn flake cereal

2 TBSP grated Parmesan cheese

1 tsp dried dill

salt & pepper to taste

1/3 cup milk

1 egg

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Mix all the dried ingredients together in a food processor until you have a nice crumbly texture.

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Pat dry the fish.  Mix the egg and the milk together.  Dip the fish in the egg mixture and coat well, then dip it into the corn flake and Parmesan mixture and coat well on both sides.

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Place the fish in a baking dish or on a baking sheet and bake at 450*F for about 10-12 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the fish flakes off easily with a fork.

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Dill Buerre Rouge

1 tomato, diced small

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 TBSP garlic, minced fine

1 shallot, minced fine

4-5 TBSP butter divided

salt & pepper to taste

1 tsp fresh dill

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In a very hot skillet, melt 1/2 the butter and saute the garlic and shallots, until they are soft and translucent, or about 5 minutes.  Add the wine, and completely cook off all the liquid.  This will reduce the acidity in the sauce.  Once the liquid is all cooked off, add the tomato and salt & pepper.  Continue to cook, at a medium heat for about 7-10 minutes, or until most of the tomatoes have broken down and are well incorporated into the sauce.  If you need to add more wine, add a bit more as needed, but make sure to completely cook the liquid off again.

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Once the tomatoes have broken down and are now part of the sauce, add the rest of the butter and incorporate well.  The tomatoes do not have to be completely liquified.  In fact, I love the rustic flair where there are still some chunks of tomato left in the sauce.  It gives the sauce more texture and character.  Add the fresh dill right at the very end, after the sauce is completely cooked.  Serve it over your fish and top with a sprig of fresh dill for garnish.

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P’s for the Pups

Fall is the perfect season for pumpkins.  They are great for decorations, but they are also very healthy and delicious to eat as well.  Not only are they healthy for us, but they are very healthy for our dogs too.  Both the “meat” of the pumpkin and the seeds are very healthy and good for dogs to eat.  If you are going to give them the seeds though, they should be roasted and not raw, since raw seeds can go rancid very quickly.  Roasted pumpkin seeds for dogs are high in Omega 3 fatty acids which act as a natural remedy for parasites such as roundworms and tapeworms.  They can also help dislodge kidney stones, and are also beneficial to your dog’s urinary tract.   Because pumpkins are high in fiber, and are good for your dog’s digestion, they help with both diarrhea and constipation.  And if your dogs are on the pudgy side, like my Lucie, adding pumpkins to their diets helps with weight loss as well.  Pumpkins are 90% water, so adding pumpkin to the diet can help hydrate your dogs too.  You can use canned pumpkin puree or whole pumpkins that have been peeled and cooked.  Do not let your dogs eat the skin or the core though.  Not only are pumpkins healthy for your dogs, but dogs love them because they taste so good.

As most of you know, I make the wet food for my two Saint Bernards all the time.  I give them a wide variety of foods high in protein and low in fats.  I make them the same quality of foods that I make for myself and my husband.  I usually make a batch that will last for most of the week.  They are very healthy, with shiny coats.    I will take this as a positive sign that they like their food, although they don’t exactly have the most discriminating tastes.   There is some controversy about whether or not to give dogs raw food or cooked foods.  I personally believe their foods should be cooked, not raw, only because of the risks of salmonella or trichinosis, or any other parasitic food risks that are out there, but if making your own dog food, each person has to make that decision themselves, and do what they feel is best for their own dogs.  The argument against cooking their food is that dogs in the wild eat raw meat.  And though this is true, the difference is that the wild dogs are actually hunting their own live prey and are catching their food, rather than having it butchered and prepared by humans, and therefore, there is much less risk for the parasitic or foodborne illnesses.  This week, Lucie and Vinnie are feasting on a lot of P’s.  I made their food with ground beef, and added peas, potatoes, pumpkin, parsley, and peanut butter, along with a dash of cinnamon.  (I told you I would find a use for my pumpkins that I used for my fall decorations. From Sesame Chicken to Stir-Fry Pork)  Other than the cinnamon, I did not add any other spices or seasonings.  So with all the P‘s listed above, the most important P in their food was protein, and lots of it.  Dogs in general, but especially the larger breed dogs, need a lot of protein in their diets.  Lucie and Vinnie have no complaints about how mommy makes their food.  They love every bite of it and gobble everything up within seconds.

Fritzie is helping me prepare everything.

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I cooked all the vegetables in canola oil for about 10-15 minutes, or until the pumpkins and potatoes were mostly cooked and translucent.  Then I added the parsley and cinnamon.

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After mixing everything together, I added the lean ground beef, and continued to cook everything until the meat was completely cooked as well.

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Once everything is completely cooked, it is time to add the peanut butter.  The peanut butter not only adds both flavor and additional protein, but also acts as a binder to hold everything together.

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Vinnie (left) and Lucie (right) enjoying a spoonful of peanut butter.

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Mom, we’re hungry.  It’s time to eat.  NOW PLEASE!

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From Sesame Chicken to Stir-Fry Pork

I know, you’re reading the title and thinking ??????? What is she up to now? Has she completely lost her mind?  Well maybe, but not for the reasons that you may think.  I may be crazy in all other aspects of my life, but in the kitchen I know exactly what I am doing (or at least I put on a good show so everyone is fooled into thinking that ).  🙂   By now, you all should know I hate throwing food away if I don’t have to, and that means waving my magic spoon and stirring with my magic whisk to re-create something completely different from leftovers that I already have.  I have nothing against eating leftovers just as they are, but as a creative person, I get bored easily, and I just have this burning desire from deep within that drives me to create, or in a lot of cases, re-create.  Hence my reigning title as “The Queen of Leftovers”; a title I have no intentions of surrendering anytime soon.  This time, I had a lot of sauce leftover from when I made my sesame chicken and I did not want to just throw it away if I didn’t have to, nor did I want to have the same exact dish all over again so soon.  Sesame Chicken  We had pork chops and a wide variety of vegetables, so an Asian pork stir-fry with vegetables it was.  All I needed to do was to add a few different ingredients, and voila, it was a new sauce and a new dish.  Don’t worry, it was extra sauce that was nowhere near the chicken.  I would never cross contaminate my foods like that.

 

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I love all vegetables and I always have a wide variety on hand at any given time.  We eat a lot of vegetables, and I am always mixing them up. We always have vegetables with more vegetables.   I love mixing up a whole bunch of colors and textures of my vegetables too.  So mix them up yourselves, and use what you like, in any combination you like.  There is no right or wrong types of vegetables to use.  This time I used, red bell peppers, fresh green beans, mushrooms, jalapenos, shallots, kobiashi squash or pumpkin and green onions (Yes, soon all those little mini pumpkins in the background will be cooked up and used as well).  If you are using both soft and hearty vegetables, saute your heartier ones first and add your softer ones towards the end of the cooking process.  I cooked them in a combination of both olive oil and sesame oil with chilies in a hot skillet.  If you have a wok, that’s fine too.  I have one, I just very rarely use it.  For whatever reason, I prefer using my large skillet.

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I sliced the pork into thin strips that were about 1 1/2″x 1/2′ in size.  Once the vegetables were cooked, I added the pork to the vegetables and continued cooking until the pork was completely cooked.  While everything is cooking.  I made the additions to my sauce.

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As I said above, I used my leftover sauce from my sesame chicken Sesame Chicken then I added about 1 heaping TBSP of each garlic, fresh ginger and hot Chinese spicy mustard.  To make the sauce a little thicker, if you want, you can add a little cornstarch mixed with water to the sauce.  I was going to use it, but the sauce did not need it this time.  It was fine just the way it was, so no cornstarch was needed.

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Once everything is completely cooked, add the sauce to the pork and vegetable mixture, and combine well.  Add sliced green onions right before serving.

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I served my stir-fry over white rice along with some crispy pan-fried dumplings and a crisp and fruity chardonnay, but a semi-sweet Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc or Gewertztrameiner would be nice wines to go with the meal as well.

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**** You can easily substitute chicken or shrimp, or a combination of chicken, shrimp and/or pork if you like.  You can also make it vegetarian and/or vegan simply by removing the meat and adding tofu and/or other vegan products.

 

Chicken with Mushrooms and Artichoke Hearts

Chicken is one of our staples.  We eat a lot of chicken, and we eat it in many, many different ways.  It is so versatile and just goes with everything.  When the weather gets cooler, I like baking it and roasting it, or baking it with delicious sauces.  This recipe for chicken with mushrooms and artichoke hearts is is a baked chicken with a creamy sauce.  This recipe is from one of my German cookbooks, and as always, I modify it and made it my own recipe.  The original version of this dish is called Gebackene Habnchenbrust mit Champignons, and does not have the artichoke hearts, garlic, shallots or thyme.  I added these ingredients, which I feel just made a good dish a much better dish.  In case you have not realized this yet, I am always”playing with my food”, making changes and tweaks wherever I feel they are needed.  That’s just what I do, and I encourage you to do the same.  That’s what makes cooking so much fun.  You are personalizing your recipes, making them how you like them, and making them your own.

Chicken with Mushrooms and Artichoke Hearts.  This is a very hearty dish and is best when served over with mashed potatoes, rice or noodles.  I had leftover mashed potatoes from when I made my steak with paprika vinaigrette, Steak with Paprika Vinaigrette so I served it over mashed potatoes here.

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Chicken with Mushrooms and Artichoke Hearts

2 lbs chicken breasts

1/4 cup flour + 1 TBSP

salt & pepper to taste

3 TBSP butter

olive oil

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1 can artichoke hearts, reserve the liquid

1/2 cup sour cream

1 TBSP bread crumbs

1 TBSP garlic

1 shallot, sliced thin

1 tsp fresh thyme

 

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Preheat the oven to 350* F or 175* C

Mix the flour with the salt and pepper, then coat the chicken with the flour mixture.  The chicken breasts I used were HUGE, so I cut them in half, wrapped them in plastic wrap  and pounded them with a meat tenderizer, to make them both more tender and thinner.  This will also reduce the cooking time and will allow for more even cooking.

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When the chicken breasts are floured and prepared, place them in a hot skillet with butter and olive oil and pan fry them until they are browned on all sides.  This will take about 15-20 minutes.

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While the chicken breasts are cooking up, slice the mushrooms and shallot, then saute them with the garlic in a combination of butter and olive oil.  Add the artichoke hearts right at the very end.  They do not need to cook more.  For the sauce, mix together the breadcrumbs, 1 TBSP flour, sour cream, wine, reserved liquid from the can of artichoke hearts and thyme.

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Once the chicken is cooked, place it in a baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Next add the mushroom and artichoke mixture.  Finish by pouring the sour cream and wine mixture on top.

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Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for about 40-45 minutes.  Serve over mashed potatoes, rice or noodles.  I completed the meal with a nice, cold viognier that had hints of citrus and apples.  It was a perfect dinner for a cold and chilly night.

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