Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies: Comfort Food Calling

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Life in Dubai means traveling a lot, exploring as much as possible within a direct flight radius. I started 2017 in California, and since then visited the Taj Mahal in India and went skiing in Kazakhstan. It’s only February. I love our adventures and trying local specialties wherever we go. I can’t say I loved the fermented horse milk in Kazakhstan, but hey, I tried it. Whenever I come home, I unavoidably go through a powerful comfort food craving phase. Usually that means allll the pasta, and a lot of baked goods.

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Which brings me to these cookies! Soft, chewy, sweet, pumpkin spicy cookies. This recipe is based on a good friend’s famous oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. She makes them every time my college girlfriends get together, or we make them together. They’re always amazing, and I can only speculate that they’re the magic glue of our long term friendships!  So she gets all the credit for introducing me to this magic formula. Also she’s a doctor so she knows what’s good for you. I just made a few tweaks to put pumpkin and spices in the mix. I was skeptical at first about keeping the chocolate chips in with the pumpkin, but you’ll just have to trust me that pumpkin apparently goes with everything.

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Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 48 Cookies

1 cup Butter
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 Egg
1 cup Canned Pumpkin Puree
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 cups Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Ginger
1/2 tsp Cloves
2 cups Whole Oats (not steel cut or quick cooking)
12 oz (1 bag) Chocolate Chips
Sea Salt for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Allow the butter and egg to come to room temperature. Cream the butter and combine with the sugar, egg, pumpkin and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spices, and oats. Add dry ingredients gradually to the butter mixture, mixing well to combine. Finally add in the chocolate chips and mix together.

Usually by this point I’m nearly full because I’ve tasted so much dough…but I shouldn’t recommend that because of raw eggs being bad or some such nonsense…

Spoon the dough into evenly sized balls on a cookie sheet, pressing them slightly flat into, you know, cookie shape. If desired, sprinkle the dough with a bit of sea salt before putting in the oven. Bake at 375F for 8-10 minutes. If I’ve learned anything by moving so much lately, it’s that ovens vary wildly. Start low on the timer and check for doneness.

Let cool and enjoy with milk (of the non-horse variety)!

©Cook it Pretty 2017

Make Thanksgiving Easy Again: Easy Turkey

Easy Turkey | Cook it Pretty

Two years ago I hosted my first Thanksgiving without parental supervision, and I did a lot of research on turkey roasting techniques. The combination of all the tips and tricks I found resulted in a successful approach that I’m ready to confidently share with you.

Easy Turkey | Cook it Pretty

You’ve probably seen blogs and magazine articles telling you to do everything from turning the turkey upside down to cooking it straight out of the freezer. Cover it! Don’t cover it! Baste it! Basting is over! Stuffing will kill you! Flip it! Change the temperature 10 times! Buy a million gadgets you’ll only use once a year! Hosting a big meal is stressful enough without all this conflicting information. I’ve boiled everything down to one tip for you: DO LESS.

Easy Turkey | Cook it Pretty

The only thing that is difficult about being in charge of the turkey is that you have to do some pre-planning. If you’re hosting Thanksgiving, my guess is you already know that you have some planning in your (very near) future. In Dubai I only have access to frozen turkeys so I do not get a lot of choice in the matter and the following tips and techniques are for frozen turkey. Some thoughts to get you started:

  • Buy your turkey as early as possible. If your turkey is frozen, you’ll need to allow for 3 days of defrosting in the fridge. But people, this isn’t hard! All it does is sit there and take up all your fridge space for a few days.
  • Don’t double-brine. Did you know that most frozen turkeys are already in brine? Check the labels and you’ll likely see something about the ingredients including salt or salt water – that means it’s been in brine. So lucky you, you do not need to brine it again.
  • No special equipment required. As long as you have a roasting pan that is big enough for your turkey, you’re good to go. While things like roasting racks can be nice, you don’t have to have one. My method doesn’t require a baster either. One thing that’s nice to have is a meat thermometer, in case you’re anxious about things like serving your loved ones undercooked meat (raises hand).
  • Plan around oven space. Turkeys take a long time to cook and will dominate your oven on Thanksgiving day. Plan any other dishes you’re making around the idea that your oven will be in use most of the time. Things like pie can be easily made the day before to avoid conflicting oven time. Stuffing can be prepped the day before and baked after the turkey comes out. Consider vegetables cooked on the stove top, such as sauteed green beans, rather than a roasted dish that requires oven time. Or farm out your other oven dishes to guests, potluck style.

So you have your turkey defrosted and your suitably sized pan, your other holiday dishes under control, and you’re ready to go. Where to begin? Read on!

Easy Herb Roasted Turkey

Defrosted Turkey
2 Onions, halved then quartered (you want big pieces)
3 Celery stalks, chopped into 2-3 inch sections
Butter, softened
S&P
Herbs of choice (I like rosemary, sage & thyme)
1/2 Orange, quartered

Calculate your cook time
Cook time = 15 mins x #lbs. For example, a 15lb turkey will take 225 mins or 3 hours 45 mins. Preheat your oven to 325F.

Prep the pan
Place the onion and celery chunks in the bottom of the roasting pan, reserving some onion to be later placed inside the turkey. These will serve as your roasting rack, raising the bird off the bottom of the pan. They also provide a nice flavor to your drippings, which you can later use for gravy.

Prep the bird
Check the neck cavity and main cavity for little bags of gizzards, removing everything. Keep them if you like to include them in your stuffing or stock or if you’re like my mom and cook it up for the dogs. Toss them if you’re like me and get grossed out by everything I just said (it’s hard for me to even type the word gizzards). Place the turkey in the roasting pan on top of the chopped onion and celery. Fold the wings underneath the body of the turkey – this prevents them from getting dried out or burned, and it just looks better.

Give it a rub
Take the softened butter in your fingers and rub it all over your turkey, including the legs. Sprinkle everywhere with generous amounts of salt and pepper, including some inside the cavity. Add your herbs, like rosemary, sage, and thyme everywhere as well.

Easy Turkey | Cook it Pretty
Get aromatic
Put remaining onion and orange pieces inside the cavity. I’ve seen this called “aromatics” – you won’t be eating them, but they add juice and flavor to the meat from the inside. Don’t stuff it too full or it may affect your cook time, a few pieces of each will do.

Tie the legs, or don’t
This is a purely aesthetic choice. If you want a pretty picture, there’s something that makes the tied up legs just look better. But if you don’t care and just want it easy, skip this because you’ll just be removing the tie later. I skipped it last time and it looked a little awkward, but who really cares because it tastes the same!

The do-nothing part
Now put it in the oven and set your timer according to the cook time above. THEN DO NOTHING. Don’t baste it or change the temperature or use tin foil on anything. Just ignore the turkey for the next 3 hours or so. Do your other prep and stove top cooking. Have a glass of wine. Study up on making gravy so you can put the pan drippings to use. (I can vouch for this method from The Kitchn).

Check the temp
Many frozen turkeys have a pop-up plastic thingie that tells you it’s ready. I’ve heard it’s best to double check this with a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh. Make sure it’s in the 165-180F range. The skin should be browned and crispy. Then it’s done! You roasted a whole turkey all by yourself!

Let it rest
Let the turkey rest at room temp for at least 30 minutes before carving. This is a good time to make your gravy, in which case you’ll need to remove the turkey from the roasting pan and transfer it to a cutting board. Put gallon-sized ziplock bags over oven mitts in order to safely grab the hot turkey without ruining your mitts. Be careful, turkeys are heavy and hot!

Carve it up
I’m lucky because my husband is amazing at breaking down the bird. I have never attempted this myself. But here’s the video from NYT that he watched before doing it the first time, and he knocked it out of the park. I like this method because it’s much easier to serve than carving it at the table, and you can break it up into dark and light meat platters.

You did it! Wishing you a juicy and delicious turkey to share with loved ones this Thanksgiving.

© Cook it Pretty 2016

Fall Squash Quinoa

Fall Squash Quinoa | Cook it Pretty
Cutting right to the chase, you need this dish in your life. This recipe is full of fall flavor bombs: squash (or pumpkin), dates, dried cranberries, almonds, balsamic, and warm spices. It’s also healthy (because spinach), gluten-free, and vegetarian. I have made it with acorn squash, butternut squash, and gem pumpkins. You can impress guests by stuffing the quinoa mixture in a roasted acorn squash. It looks really cute. But this deconstructed method tastes the same. I’ll leave it to you to decide if you want to go the extra mile in presentation. I know this looks like a lot of ingredients but that’s ok because they’re all bringing something to the table.

Fall Squash Quinoa
1 Squash of your choice (butternut or acorn), halved and scooped
1  cup uncooked Quinoa
2 cups Water
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 small Red Onion, diced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
S&P to taste
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 cup Honey
1/2 cup fresh Spinach
1 tsp Red Pepper flakes (more to taste)
1/4 cup chopped raw Almonds
6 Medjool Dates, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup dried Cranberries
1/4 cup crumbled Feta
1/2 cup fresh Cilantro, chopped

Roast the Squash
Preheat the oven to 400F. In a roasting pan, drizzle the squash halves with 1 Tbs of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place them cut side down and roast for 20-25 minutes. Turn the halves over and return to oven for 10 more minutes. They’re done when you can easily stick a fork all the way through the flesh of the squash.

Cook the Quinoa
While the squash is roasting, bring your quinoa and water to a boil on the stovetop. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking the quinoa covered for 15 minutes, until all water is absorbed. Set aside.

Ready the Flavor Bombs
Heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet. Add the chopped onion and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic and stir. Add a dash of salt and pepper, cumin and cinnamon. Add the balsamic and honey and allow it to reduce for a couple minutes. Add the spinach and stir until the leaves cook down. Turn off heat. Add your cooked quinoa and mix well. Add red pepper flakes,  almonds, dates, cranberries, crumbled feta and cilantro and mix well. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

Combine Forces
If you’re going for presentation points, spoon the quinoa mixture into the roasted squash halves. If your halves aren’t so pretty or you just don’t care, go ahead and scoop the cooked squash out of its skin and add it to the quinoa mixture.

Enjoy!

© Cook it Pretty 2016

Southwest Quinoa Salad

Southwest Quinoa Salad | Cook it Pretty

My Dad is a nutritionist’s, personal trainer’s, and doctor’s dream. He follows instructions and has admirable levels of will power. Over the past several years, he has gradually lost weight and completely changed his lifestyle, all under professional guidance and with no extreme diets or fad exercise routines. He’s definitely the healthiest septuagenarian I know.

When I visit him in California, I benefit from all this because all I have to do is wake up and get dressed and I have a ride and a gym buddy every morning. We usually do some grocery shopping afterwards, for lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and the occasional pre-made dish from the Whole Foods salad bar. One day his favorite one of these, a quinoa salad with corn and black beans, was no longer available. It had become one of my faves as well, and I was disappointed to not see it in the fridge when I was home in June. I decided to recreate it myself, and Father’s Day seemed like just the occasion for it.

Southwest Quinoa Salad | Cook it Pretty

Shopping for produce in California is AN ABSOLUTE JOY. I never really appreciated this before moving to Dubai. The availability of local produce in California is exceptional, and the summer haul is hard to beat. I still come across some California fruits in Dubai, but it makes me sad to think about how long they must have been sitting on a boat to get here. Not exactly fresh from the farm. Not to mention the sticker shock of all the imported goods, and by imported goods I mean nearly everything.

Enter this fresh sweet corn from Northern California! I admit, it’s been a very long time since I’ve actually shucked corn and cut it off the cob myself. I tend to just keep frozen corn stocked and had convinced myself it “tastes the same.” NO it does not! The extra effort is definitely worth it. That said, of course you could still make this recipe with good ol’ frozen kernels.

Southwest Quinoa Salad | Cook it Pretty
I roasted the corn on a cookie sheet with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. This was definitely the star of the dish. Of course, the local avocados also helped. Lately it seems I don’t eat much without adding avocado to it. I can’t help it, I’m Californian. It’s what we do.

I made a pretty huge batch so that Dad (and I!) could enjoy the leftovers for the rest of the week. Good thing it was a hit, because we sure did have a lot of it! That day I served it as a side for some roasted salmon, along with some truly special heirloom carrots. It’s also great on its own for a light and healthy lunch (Dad-approved, vegan and gluten free, btw) and would be the perfect dish to bring to a summer BBQ. In Dubai we can only have winter BBQs, but you get the idea.

Southwest Quinoa Salad

Big Batch of Salad
2 cups uncooked white Quinoa
3 ears of Corn, cut off the cob
2 large Avocados, diced
1 red Bell Pepper, diced
1 medium Red Onion, diced
1 can Black Beans, rinsed
Handful Cilantro, chopped or cut with shears
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

For the Dressing
Juice from 2 Limes
1/3 cup Olive Oil
1 Tbs Honey
1/2 to 1 tsp Chili powder
Salt & Pepper to taste

NOTE: This is a big batch, but you can easily reduce amounts of everything if desired!

To cook the quinoa, bring the 2 cups of quinoa plus 4 cups of water to a boil in a sauce pan on the stove. (If you are cooking for fewer people, try 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water. Just remember it’s always a 2:1 ratio of liquid to quinoa). As soon as it’s bubbling and boiling, cover and reduce the heat to low. Let cook for about 15 minutes, until all water is absorbed. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool for a bit before adding other ingredients, as the salad should be served room temp or slightly chilled.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Add corn kernels to a cookie sheet or shallow roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil, and a bit of salt and pepper, tossing to coat. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes. Let cool.

Combine cooked quinoa with prepared vegetables, beans, and cilantro, adding the corn when it has cooled. In a separate bowl, whisk together ingredients for the dressing. Treat the given measurements as a guideline, adding more or less of what you like to suit your tastes. Skip the chili powder if you’re averse to spicy (like my Dad!). Taste it to make sure it’s not too tart or too spicy, and add a little more honey and/or salt and pepper if needed to balance out the flavor. Drizzle over the salad and lightly toss together.

If you want to garnish with some pretty avo slices like in the photo, this is how to do it:
Slice the avocado in half lengthwise and remove the pit. Gently peel off the skin, which should be easy if it’s ripe. Lay the avocado half flat-side down and slice lengthwise in narrow strips. Pick a few pretty bits to fan out and place on top of your salad so when you enter the party everyone says OOOOOOH briefly before eating it all and telling you how awesome you are.

Enjoy!

© Cook it Pretty 2016

Fig & Curry Deviled Eggs

In Dubai they sell eggs in containers of 6, 15 or 30. It’s weird to remove “a dozen eggs” from your grocery shopping vocabulary, but it’s really just as arbitrary. I had 15 of these brown freckled beauties and now that Easter has passed, I know you’re looking for ways to use up all those hard boiled eggs.

Fig & Curry Deviled Eggs | Cook it Pretty
I like the idea of sweet & spicy, and most any use of figs, so I updated this deviled egg recipe using fig preserves and curry powder. My curry powder happens to be Pakistani, but I think any type would do! I underestimated how long it takes to peel 15 hard boiled eggs, but after a while the repetition was almost therapeutic. I add salt to the boiling water and then transfer the eggs to ice water,  both things that are supposed to help make the eggs easier to peel. Does it actually do anything? I don’t know. I still ended up with a few tricky/ugly ones (aka tasters), but most of them were pretty smooth.

Fig & Curry Deviled Eggs | Cook it Pretty
When the man got home, he asked me two rapid fire questions: “Why did you make these?” *eats one whole* “Why are they so good?” I made them because I felt like it, and they’re so good because I had plenty of tasters and kept adding more flavor to them. They ended up savory, spicy, and a little bit sweet.

Fig & Curry Deviled Eggs | Cook it Pretty
Fig & Curry Deviled Eggs

12-15 Hard boiled eggs
1/2 c Mayo
2 Tbs Fig preserves
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
2 tsp Curry powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
Ground black pepper to taste
2-3 Stalks green onion, sliced into rounds
Handful Cilantro leaves for garnish
Sprinkle paprika for garnish

To boil the eggs, place them in the bottom of a large pot and cover with 1-2 inches of salted water. Bring to a boil on high heat, then turn off heat but leave the pot covered on the warm burner for 12 minutes. Have a bowl of ice water ready and transfer eggs from the hot to cold water and chill for a few minutes.

Carefully peel the eggs and halve each one with a sharp knife. Gently remove the yolks and add them to a mixing bowl. Smush the yolks and then add remaining ingredients. Use the less-than-perfect whites to taste the mixture and add more spice, salt, or sweet as desired. Spoon the yolk mixture into the whites (you can also transfer the mixture into a large ziplock bag and cut a corner off as your method for refilling the eggs). Garnish with cilantro and paprika. Enjoy!

© Cook it Pretty 2016

Boozy Irish Cupcakes

THIS IS IT! The best cupcake recipe on earth, and the only one you really need. I suppose they would be inappropriate for a child’s birthday. But otherwise, I have every cake-baking occasion covered for you with this single recipe.

Boozy Irish Cupcakes | Cook it Pretty
One of those occasions is of course St. Patrick’s Day. Oh, you don’t usually make cupcakes for this holiday? Well, you should. Because THESE cupcakes are made with the same ingredients as an Irish Car Bomb shot, which I know you have consumed on at least one March 17th in your life. That means Irish whiskey, Guinness, and Bailey’s. Mixing these things with chocolate is a good idea.

Boozy Irish Cupcakes | Cook it Pretty
It will result in a beautiful, boozy, chocolaty mess as pictured above. First you incorporate the Guinness into the chocolate cake batter. Then you fill the cupcakes with whiskey ganache, and top them with Bailey’s buttercream frosting. Bailey’s. Buttercream. I’m always trying to think of more things to frost with this, because it is downright incredible.

Boozy Irish Cupcakes | Cook it Pretty
It would be a shame to only use this recipe once a year, which is why I have also used it for loved ones’ birthdays along the way. No one turns down booze and chocolate. No one you want to be friends with, anyway. So yes, the cupcakes are sitting on a decidedly wintry, holiday-ish plate because I last made them for my husband’s December birthday. But you should definitely make them for St. Patrick’s Day, or Equinox, or your friend’s bridal shower, or to celebrate your half birthday.

Boozy Irish Cupcakes | Cook it Pretty
I tell people that if I have made them these cupcakes, I definitely love them. Not only because of the gift of deliciousness that they are, but also because they’re a little extra time consuming with the whole ganache filling step. But definitely, definitely worth it.

The recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen, with a couple Cook it Pretty tips:

  • The amount of whiskey in the ganache is totally dependent on your taste. I always add a bunch more than the recipe calls for. If I’m making a boozy cupcake, I want to be able to taste it. Since most of the beer cooks out in the cake part, this is the place where you’ll really taste a little alcohol. Taste as you go!
  • This also applies to the Bailey’s frosting, which is my favorite part. Start with the recommended amount, then add a little more to your taste. The flavor is awesome.
  • The trickiest part of this recipe is the coring and filling of the cupcakes. I actually own a coring tool for this sole purpose, which is made for apples but works perfectly for cupcakes too. You’ll need something like this to make the recipe work. Mine looks like this:

Cupcake Corer | Cook it Pretty

  • I use the ziplock bag with the corner cut off trick instead of a piping bag to get the ganache into the cupcakes.
  • VERY IMPORTANT: Put the “cores” you remove from the cupcakes into a bowl, drizzle with leftover ganache, and dollop some frosting on top for a super delicious reward for all your hard work.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

All the Pumpkin Pie Things

Pumpkin Pie Filling | Cook it Pretty
I made a big batch of pumpkin pie filling at Thanksgiving time and froze the leftovers. I knew I could use it for something delicious when the craving struck. So recently I opened my freezer to discover a small pack of puff pastry squares. Light bulb moment: Heyyyyy that sounds like instant pumpkin pie to me! I decided to cut the squares down to fit a mini muffin pan. Bite sized instant pumpkin pie…even better.

Mini Punkin Pies | Cook it Pretty
I didn’t waste time trying to make the crust pretty, I just kind of threw them in the tin, filled with the excess pie filling, and started baking. While I am the biggest fan of home made pie crust you know, especially my Mom’s, this was just. so. fast. Which makes it kind of irresistible, doesn’t it? Filling I already made and dough I don’t have to fret over? Pretty close to instant gratification for all your pumpkin pie craving needs.

Even after that mini pie feast, I still had more filling left. Also in my freezer, old-ass bananas saved for just such an occasion. Substitute a cup of pumpkin pie filling for one of the two eggs in my go-to banana bread recipe, reduce the sugar a tad to balance the already sweetened filling, and BAM – Pumpkin Spice Banana Bread.

Pumpkin Spice Banana Bread | Cook it Pretty
That’s two pretty major leftovers baking success stories in a row. Both delicious, quick, and easy. What’s your latest brilliant use of leftovers?

Thanksgiving Essentials: Ginger Apple Cranberry Sauce

 

Spiced Cranberry Sauce | Cook it Pretty
I’m pretty big on cranberry sauce. I love it in all forms, including shiny and jiggly out of a can. Last year I made cooked cranberry sauce for the first time, a departure from my Mom’s usual fresh cranberry relish – a family favorite close to my heart. Maybe it was because I was more focused on other things, like hosting my first Thanksgiving in Dubai, but it was a surprise hit.

Dubai Spices | Cook it Pretty
The reward could have been enhanced by my efforts to grind my own cloves. Cloves are plentiful in this land of spices, but seem to be most common in their whole, hard-as-nails form. Chopping wasn’t happening. My knives were no match. I tried mortar and pestling, slow and tiring. I even took a hammer to these suckers. I now understand why whole cloves are most often used as sharp objects plunged into defenseless foods like oranges.

Spiced Cranberry Sauce | Cook it Pretty
Success could also have been made sweeter by the hunt for key holiday ingredients, like the cranberries. In a land where I often call foods by names not widely understood by others, seeking cranberries in multiple markets was…interesting. Cranberries? They’re red and smooth? Possibly frozen? Very tart? *Points to image on a bottle of cranberry cocktail and smiles hopefully*

Spiced Cranberry Sauce | Cook it Pretty
Whatever other factors involved, the stuff tasted good. It smelled amazing. It was spiced and sweet. It tasted like it should taste. It tasted like home. The double batch lasted through many rounds of delicious leftover turkey sandwiches. I made it ahead of time and it made my life easier. And for all these reasons, I’m making it again this year. In Dubai again, this time with the in-laws. Please wish me luck on my holiday food shopping adventures.

Ginger Apple Cranberry Sauce
Double Batch, Serves 16

24 oz fresh or frozen cranberries (680 grams, for those of us shopping in the metric system)
1-2 tart apples, chopped
1 1/2 c water
1 c honey
1/2 c brown sugar
3 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
4 Tbs candied ginger, chopped
2 Tbs Cointreau or Grand Marnier
Zest from 2 oranges

In a large saucepan, bring cranberries, apples, honey, brown sugar, spices, and water to a simmer. Cover and simmer for around 10 minutes (until you notice it thickening) over medium-low heat. Add zest, candied ginger, and orange liqueur, continue simmering uncovered for a few more minutes. You’ll know when it starts to look like sauce. Remove from heat and taste, adding more sugar or spices if needed. Let cool in your serving dish of choice. Keep covered in the fridge until Turkey Day – you can make this a couple days ahead and save yourself the stove top room day-of. Bring to room temp before serving time.

© Cook it Pretty 2015

Pumpkin Spinach Lasagna

It may still be hovering around 100 degrees in Dubai, but it’s still October…technically, it’s pumpkin time. I hoarded canned pumpkin last year and had one can left – what to make? I was inspired by all the fall recipes popping up in my newsfeed and settled on a pumpkin lasagna.  I added spinach because then you can convince yourself you’re eating healthy vegetables while you consume this cheesy creamy comfort food. Nutmeg, a dash of cayenne, garlic in the bechamel, and a blend of mozzarella and parmesan cheeses bring a nice flavor to the pumpkin-centric pasta.

The two best time savers for you in this recipe are the canned pumpkin and ready-to-bake noodles. The most time consuming bit is making the bechamel, but this creamy white stuff is what takes the dish to the next level. I have a lasagna fan in the house, and he gave it immediate “is there more of this?” approval. It was pretty easy to pull together, so it could become a repeat offender!

Pumpkin Spinach Lasagna

For the filling:
1 can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup defrosted frozen spinach
1/2 stick butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 Tbs sage
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Dash cayenne pepper

For the bechamel:
3 Tbs Butter
1/2 Tbs minced garlic
3 Tbs flour
3 cups whole milk
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Salt

For assembly:
Ready-to-bake lasagna noodles
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup more grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 375F.

To make the filling, start by melting and browning the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Combine browned butter with pumpkin puree, spinach, parmesan, sage, nutmeg, salt, and cayenne. Adjust seasoning to taste.

To make the bechamel, melt remaining 3 Tbs of butter with the minced garlic over medium heat. In a separate pan, bring milk to a gentle simmer over low heat. Whisk flour into the melted butter and garlic and reduce heat to low. (You don’t necessarily need to know that this is called a roux, but it does help you sound like a fancy chef.) Continue whisking frequently as you gradually add the hot milk. Add 1/4 tsp salt and nutmeg. Bring heat back up to medium and bring to a boil, keep whisking. Cook until thickened, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook for another 5 minutes. Add another 1/4 tsp salt.

Put it allll together! Use a small baking dish (this is not a large yield recipe). Coat bottom of the dish wish small amount of the bechamel. Then arrange the pasta lining the dish (they come in all different sizes, make it work for your dish size and shape!). Top with a layer of the pumpkin filling, another layer of pasta, then pour more bechamel and top with a mix of the two cheeses. Keep repeating the layers of pasta, pumpkin, pasta, bechamel, cheese depending on the depth of your dish and the amounts of each you have left, ending with a pasta and cheese layer on top.

Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue cooking until the cheese starts to brown, about 35 more minutes.

This recipe is easy to adjust. I would have doubled it if only I had more pumpkin! Mix different spices in the filling or swap out the cheese types depending on what you have or what you like. Enjoy!

© Cook it Pretty 2015

Tuna Salad You Can Get Excited About


Tuna Salad You Can Get Excited About | Cook it PrettyTuna salad is typically not anything to write home about, but I promise if you try this combination you’re going to get out your pen.

The best thing about tuna in general is it’s gotta be the easiest protein to keep around. Canned white meat tuna is super inexpensive and those days when I feel like I need to up my protein, chances are it’s already in my cabinet.

My favorite combo brings together sweet, savory, spice, and crunch and I find it so satisfying I don’t even need to put it on bread – so gluten free or carb conscious folks, this works for you! It’s a healthy, guilt free, and quick lunch that I actually crave.

Laura’s Favorite Tuna Salad

2 cans white meat tuna (I prefer packed in water), drained
Light mayo, to taste
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Black pepper to taste
1 tsp Cumin
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 large or 2 small celery stalks, chopped
Handful Dried cranberries
Handful raw almonds, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mixing well. Add more seasoning, cranberries, or nuts to taste. Enjoy alone, on crackers, or in a sandwich.

What do you like or hate in your tuna salad?

© Cook it Pretty 2015