Sunday, October 2, 2011

He thinks I'm pumpkin crazy.

Hello October, and hello breezy, chilly air!  The past couple days have been quite chilly in NC and I am LOVING it.  Though I must admit that it makes me yearn for a bonfire, toasted marshmallows and a hayride.  Maybe before the season is over I will accomplish at least one of those things.  In the mean time, Daniel likes to think that I have gone pumpkin crazy!  I have made these  pumpkin chocolate chip muffins several times this season already-- a few batches just for us, one batch I took to a Mom's Night Out shindig, and one batch I shipped overseas to my brother-in-law in Iraq.  (Praying they're fresh when they arrive.) 

Now in the past week I have discovered 2 more pumpkin recipes.  One is a pasta recipe.  Last week when I went grocery shopping I spotted the October Rachael Ray magazine.  Dave Ramsey would call this an impulse buy, but I am choosing to call it an investment in my appetite.  I used to be crazy for her, but now that she has "made it big", has at least 5 different television shows that currently air, and her talk show is more about celebrities than cooking, I'm not as big of a fan.  Though I must say that around this time of year, each year, her magazine always draws me in.  I bet she has statistics to show it too-- I specifically remember purchasing the September or October catalog last year with a spread on recipes for apples.  Something about those red and orange colors, and the comfort foods of this season-- she must have a fabulous marketing team. So as I was flipping through I found a recipe for a pumpkin pasta.  She calls it "Pumpkin Patch Stuffed Shells."  The original recipe calls for ground beef, pumpkin, pasta shells, and spinach.  I tweaked it a little more to our liking and will share it with you. (Though, feel free to grab the magazine or look up her version, we preferred chicken and more cheese.)

Pumpkin Patch Pasta my way:
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Jumbo pasta shells (not a full box, I used around 25)
  • bag of fresh baby spinach
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 4-5 chicken breasts baked and shredded
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup pure pumpkin
Start by of course baking and shredding your chicken.  You want to get your chicken into pretty small bits so that you can stuff your shells with everything.  Boil your pasta shells to al dente and strain.  Cover them in the strainer, or in back in the pot with a wet towel so they stay moist.  Cook your baby spinach in a bit of water for a few minutes or until it wilts.  Drain the spinach, put it in a towel and really ring it out with all your might.  Chop the spinach so  you don't have a spinach clump. Cook your chopped onion in a bit of olive oil for about 7 minutes.   Add in your cooked chicken and mix.  Remove your pan from the heat and throw in your chopped spinach and 1/2 cup cheddar cheese.  Mix well and let sit to cool.  Heat 2 cups of milk in the microwave.  In a saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter, whisk in the flour and cool for a minute.  Then whisk in your milk a little at a time.  Bring the mixture to a boil and whisk for a minute.  Remove your milk mixture from the heat, add the rest of your cheese and your pumpkin.  Grease a 9x13 pan and smear about a 1/2 cup of your cheesy pumpkin sauce in the bottom.  Stuff your shells one by one with the chicken and spinach mixture and place into your pan open side down.  Once all of your shells are stuffed, pour the remainder of the cheesy pumpkin sauce over the shells.  Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, then let cool.  

When I told Daniel what all was in the pasta, he was hesitant to try it.  He literally put 2 shells on his plate because he was worried he wouldn't like it.  He said that he had only ever had pumpkin in sweets and it was weird that it was in dinner.  Well, let's just say he ate his words-- he LOVED the pasta!  Sweet victory!  It truly was delicious.  The pumpkin was very mild in the dish, but to me it was comforting to know it was there.

The next pumpkin dish was pumpkin (sort of) pancakes.  The pasta recipe didn't use up a full can of the pumpkin and I couldn't let that last bit go to waste.  I found a recipe for scratch made pancakes and attempted to tweak it.  I have never made pancakes from scratch.  I wanted to make them with wheat flour so I went in about half and half on wheat and white flour.  Added pumpkin and added spices like cinnamon and nutmeg along with some vanilla.  They were ok.  Nothing to write home about and not a recipe to share without tweaking some more.  They turned out SUPER thick, but they had nice Fall flavors to them.  And Leeland went nuts for them.  Maybe that will be something that I try again at another time with an actual recipe.

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