Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Two Recipes, One Can of Pumpkin

For some reason, the arrival of fall triggers something in my brain that tells me I HAVE to eat pumpkin.  Pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie.  This afternoon was gorgeous.  Balmy temperatures in the low 80s aren't really the beacons of fall for most people, but in Houston, they are!  Dinobaby and I spent the afternoon together (as if we don't spend every afternoon together) and enjoyed the breeze and sunshine.  On the drive home, I picked up my first pumpkin spice latte of the season and, once Dinobaby was sweetly napping, I savored every bit of that thing!

While baby was sleeping, I set out to think of ways to use up the canned pumpkin that I'd just stocked in the pantry.  Of course I could have baked, but I wanted something less time consuming and maybe a bit healthier, so here we have a snack time recipe and something for dinner.  Two (three?) recipes, one can of pureed pumpkin.

Spiced Pumpkin Dessert Pizzas

You'll need:
  • Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spread (recipe below)
  • 2 Whole wheat English muffins
  • Apple, grated or thinly sliced
  • Golden raisins
  • Cinnamon
  • Brown sugar
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Walnuts, toasted and chopped
Toast English muffins to your desired crunchiness.  Lately I've been toasting them whole, then again after separating the two sides, but make them as toasty as you like.

Spread each half with Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spread then top with any combination of your favorite toppings.  Apple and cinnamon.  Brown sugar and pumpkin seeds with the sugar melted under the broiler.  Walnuts and raisins.

I thought it would be cute and more fun for kiddos to grate the apple since I'm calling these dessert pizzas -- you've got your pumpkin 'sauce' and apples stand in for the mozzarella.  Top it off with any combination of goodies and enjoy!  

Serves 4, with leftover pumpkin spread for later in the week.

Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spread Enjoy as a dip for apples, pretzels, etc. too!
  • 5 oz. reduced fat (Neufchatel) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 3 Tbs. pureed pumpkin, fresh or canned
  • 2 Tbs. pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract 
Blend all ingredients together with a hand mixer until smooth and the spices and pumpkin are well incorporated.  Store in an air tight container in the fridge.


    For dinner, I used up the remaining pumpkin puree with this tasty, yet heavily modified recipe from the Whole Foods website.  It worked well as a base recipe for experimentation and the results garnered a 10/10 from my husband ("As in, I'd eat this everyday.")!

    Turkey Pumpkin Chili

    The reviews complained that the chili lacked enough spice, so I nearly tripled the amount of chili powder (I didn't have jalapeƱos on hand), doubled the cumin, and added some garlic powder, cayenne, paprika, and a dash of cinnamon.  Serve with cheese, sour cream, simple guacamole, or chips.  If you test this one out, I'd encourage you to spice and taste until you find the most pleasing mix of flavors.  I was happy that I did.

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    Dinner Salad

    For a dinner-worthy salad, all on its own, combine:

    • Organic baby greens 
    • Yellow & orange mini bell peppers, sliced into 1/4" rings (Use as many as you like, especially if you have a ginormous bag of them from Sam's like I do.)
    • Fresh raspberries
    • One half of an avocado, cut into chunks
    • Pumpkin seeds
    • Sliced almonds
    • A sprinkling of fried chow mein noodles (It offsets the health factor a little, but the crunch is nice!)
    • Feta cheese, optional
    Drizzle with a little poppy seed dressing and enjoy!  The raspberries are a little sweet and a little tart and the creamy avocado really lends itself to the whole salad like a dressing.  I just ate a huge bowl of this salad accompanied by a piece of garlic bread made from a bolillo.  I'm quite the happy camper!

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Enjoying Where You Are

    With Dinobaby's first birthday fast approaching, I've been thinking a lot lately about our family as it is and about our plans for more children.  My once jaundiced and orange little October pumpkin is now a hulk of a toddler who can walk and say hi to strangers.  He's becoming less and less like my little baby (sorry kid, but he's always going to be my little baby regardless of how old or big he gets) and more and more like a child.  While it's beyond exciting, it's also a little sad.  It's tugging at my heart and making think about other little ones who might be in our future.

    That same tugging is also reminding me of how I felt after Dinobaby was born.  Amidst the joy (and extreme exhaustion), there was also a slight feeling of, " now what?"

    Growing up, I always looked forward to the day when I would meet the right person.  In 2007 I did, and after a few months, my inner monologue was like a combination of "I Can Hear the Bells" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice."  I couldn't wait to be engaged.  And then we were engaged.  Then, I couldn't wait until we got married.  And then we did get married. 

    I'd been waiting for what seemed to be my whole life to have a baby and start a family, too.  Miraculously (and I don't say that lightly -- I'm so, so grateful), Dinobaby was born a mere 10 months after our wedding. 

    The first time we visited my parents, who live a four hour drive away, with the baby in tow, I realized that I'd gotten everything that I'd wished for.  I was married to the most kind-hearted man I've ever met and we had a gorgeous son.  With that, however, I realized an entire set of consequences that hadn't really struck me before that point. 

    Getting what I wanted also meant that I could no longer sleep in at my parents' house, wake up to eat just-baked blueberry muffins, and then read a book for an entire afternoon.  I couldn't walk to the gate and take my own sweet time, stopping to sit in the road (it's a long way to the gate, and the road is private, by the way) and watch ants scurry over pebbles and into their mounds.  No more alone time watching the clouds as they moved lazily over the bright green pastures with no regard for how much time had passed.  No more alone time to even go to the bathroom, for that matter.

    In short, I realized that I wasn't the baby anymore and I cried.  It was dumb, but I cried because everything was different. 

    Why didn't I just enjoy being single?  I could go into a store by myself whenever I wanted!  It was so much easier when I was pregnant, even if I was hot and miserable.  Why didn't I enjoy it?, etc., etc.

    I believe that things happen in their own time and at the right time.  That afternoon at my parents house, I had to ask myself, "When else am I supposed to be happy and just live, if not now?"  True, we could have waited to have children and used that time to travel or just be married.  We would have enjoyed it, I have no doubt, and sometimes I miss that possibility.  But I wouldn't change the way that things actually happened. 

    My point is that I need to enjoy where I am.  This is the only time that my family will be exactly as it is.  It's the only time that we'll be living in this apartment with just one child who loves my company, cuddles up to me to nurse, doesn't go to school, and hasn't yet learned the word, "No!"  While it's fun to dream about how our family might grow, or what tomorrow might bring, I'm reminded to enjoy what we have today!

    Just a Reminder

    Have no fear for what tomorrow may bring. The same loving God who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. God will either shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.

    -St. Francis De Sales

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    Rolls, Anyone?

    Let's Face It...

    I've been hit with a few "let's face it" moments this week (and I'm sure they'll keep comin').  Hopefully I can look at them as points to improve upon, or else say that they aren't really my fault!

    Here are some of my favorites so far:

    1.  My Hair
    Let's face it, my hair will never be wavy or hold any sort of curl. I have straight hair that will likely continue to be straight forever.  My hair does not scrunch, so please, self, stop buying hair products that promise you "beachy waves".  What you end up with is "a rat just made a nest in my hair."  No kind of mega-ultra hold mousse will fix this for me, so I need to just enjoy the fact that I can sleep on wet hair and wake up with it looking nice!

    2. My Cooking
    Let's face it, my cooking will never hold a candle to anything that my husband's mom or grandmothers ever made.  Arroz con leche, enfrijoladas, juevos a la mexicana...  I suppose I had delusions of grandeur when I thought that maybe I could make something that would be different (but better) than my husband's homecooking.  Umm, yeah. . . no.  While some would say that I need to just give up while I'm ahead, I think I'll keep trying knowing that whatever recipe I find will likely yield good (hopefully really good) but different results.  At least then I can ruin the chances for Dinobaby's future wife if he doesn't enter the priesthood!  Just kidding.

    3. My Clothing 
    Let's face it, it's been almost a year since Dinobaby was born and I still don't have clothes that actually fit me well.  At ten months postpartum, people probably expect me to start looking like a normal person again and not a new mom in that awkward in between stage of maternity and non-baby-related clothing.  At this point, I've safety pinned the waistbands of all but one pair of pants and most of my old tops are so tight now that it'd be a tad scandalous to wear them.  Strangely, it's the inverse problem of my pre-pregnancy days when all of my shirts were XS and I needed pants large enough for my big 'ol hips.  Well, okay, I still have big 'ol hips (and thank God for that during labor), but at least things are a bit more symmetrical now. 

    Anyone else have a good "let's face it . . ." moment this week?

    Friday, September 3, 2010

    Simple Gingered Pineapple Cake

    Since we've started getting half-shares from our local organic co-op every week or two, we often have a whole pineapple sitting around waiting to be eaten.  My husband isn't a big fan and Dinobaby can't really have it yet because of the high acidity, so it leaves all of our pineapple consumption up to me! 

    We have a fresh new pineapple ripening on the counter, so I needed to use up some of last week's and this is what I came up with: Gingered Pineapple Cake!  Thanks to a lovely clearance end cap at Target, I had a box of yellow cake mix in the pantry (that only cost $0.90!  And I promise it wasn't expired.), so I figured some sort of pineapple upside down something was in order. 

    I realize that the cake part probably negates about 89.99% of the fruit's natural organic goodness, but c'mon.  Everybody needs some cake every once in a while!  Well, at least I do.

    The results of my experiment?  Somewhat close to heavenly.  I've had to stop myself several times from standing over the cake pan with a fork saying, "Mommy's watching you from the kitchen!  No, baby.  Get down from there!  *Om nom nom*."  It's funny what a cake can do.

    Simple Gingered Pineapple Cake
    Prep time: 10 minutes
    Cooking time: 30 minutes


    • 2 cups Fresh Chopped Pineapple
    • 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar, Packed
    • 1-½ teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
    • 1 (generous) pinch Ground Ginger
    • 1 Tablespoon Butter, For The Pineapple Mixture
    • 1 box Butter Recipe Yellow Cake Mix, 18.25oz (I Used Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Butter Recipe Golden)
    • 3 whole Eggs (according To Package Directions)
    • ½ cups Butter, Softened (according To Package Directions)
    • ⅔ cups Water (according To Package Directions)

    Preheat oven to 375 F.

    Spray a 13×9 glass baking dish with non-stick spray for baking or grease and lightly flour.

    In a skillet over medium low heat, combine pineapple, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and butter. It’s best if the pineapple was able to sit in a bowl a little after it was chopped to release some of its juices — the juice will help dissolve the brown sugar. If not, add a couple teaspoons of water to help things along. Let the pineapple come to a low boil.

    While the skillet is bubbling, prepare the cake mix according to the package directions with the eggs, softened butter, and water. Make sure to beat until the batter is light and fluffy.

    Once the batter is ready, pour the pineapple mixture into the bottom of the cake pan and spread evenly. Top with the cake batter and smooth the batter so that all of the pineapple chunks are hidden.

    Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

    Cool for 15 minutes in the pan over a wire rack, then serve with milk, fresh whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!