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

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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

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

Couscous or Quinoa, Pumpkin or Squash?

Any conversation about squash or pumpkin can get pretty confusing around here. In Dubai, and apparently in Australia as well, butternut squash is referred to as butternut pumpkin. I’ve also seen acorn squash labeled as green pumpkin. I like pretty much all manner of squash and/or pumpkin and tend to gravitate toward recipes with these ingredients. (A recent review of my Pinterest boards made that pretty clear).

Butternut Squash Couscous | Cook it Pretty

So I recently picked up a “butternut pumpkin” and was looking for a recipe to use it with. I opted for  this Couscous Salad with Butternut Squash and Cranberry from The Kitchn. I followed the recipe pretty closely except for not soaking the dried cranberries (I eat them straight from the bag anyway – anyone know why I would need to soak them?) and adding some honey to the dressing as I found it a little too strong on the vinegar. I do love the local couscous, how cute is the packaging?

Dubai Couscous | Cook it Pretty

As I was making it I realized how close this recipe is to the Quinoa-Stuffed Acorn Squash recipe that is a big favorite of mine. After tasting it, I concluded that I prefer the quinoa/acorn version. This recipe from Camille Styles is the favorite of which I speak. I’ve made it over and over and it has sweet, salt, spice, and heat in all the right places. I always use cranberries instead of currants and different chopped nuts instead of pepitas, and my favorite personal addition is dates.

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash | Cook it Pretty

I think this one also wins for presentation, and the addition of greens ups the health factor. Secret bonus of this presentation – no peeling or chopping the squash. That’s right, it’s actually easier to make it the cute way this time. I’ve made it clear in the past how partial I am to quinoa. Maybe I’m biased, but quinoa beats couscous this round. Cute camel packaging notwithstanding.

It’s Pumpkin Soup Season. Even here.

It started with this picture.

LAT Pumpkin Soup

Image from LA Times

This was 2009, aka pre-Pinterest, so it was the cutest pumpkin recipe presentation I had ever seen. I suggested it as a new addition to our family’s Thanksgiving feast that year, and went for it with the help of my Mom and sister. I photo-documented the whole thing, clearly always a blogger at heart, even if my photos weren’t the greatest. The recipe claims 2 hours prep/cook time, I’d say it took us more like 5. That’s because the original recipe from LA Times calls for starting with an entire actual pumpkin rather than the just-as-good canned pumpkin puree that people in the real world are more likely to use.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup - start with a pumpkin

Entire actual pumpkin used.

Being a family that places value on things from scratch, we went for it anyway. It involved a lot of secondary containers and extra sets of hands as we worked the huge batch through the food processor to break down the pumpkin chunks.

Cooking down the pumpkin chunks.

Cooking down the pumpkin chunks.

Don’t forget that you also have to carve out the minis for those cute pumpkin bowls!

Spiced Pumpkin Soup in mini pumpkin bowls

Making mini pumpkin bowls

The recipe makes a big batch that serves 12 – could you imagine making a dozen pumpkin bowls? Four was plenty. Here’s the finished product, in our imperfect yet pretty darn cute white pumpkin serving vessels.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup in Mini Pumpkin Bowls

Spiced Pumpkin Soup in Mini Pumpkin Bowls

We may have slaved for hours, but no one was complaining by the time we were eating it. Working that hard for something can make it taste even better. What sets this pumpkin soup apart from others I’ve seen and tasted, other than the impressive presentation, is the bisque-like texture (thanks to heavy cream) and the sweet spicy flavors (thanks to roasted chiles and maple syrup). And don’t forget the bacon!

In short, it was worth it. For a special occasion, I’d probably do those pumpkin bowls again. But what if I want to eat pumpkin soup every damn day?? And I kind of do. Thankfully, I have smart, resourceful, and talented friends.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup - Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 version – garnished with extra nutmeg

My fabulous friend Pam over at Seriously Yum has taught me many kitchen lessons over the years, and has been doing this cooking and writing about it thing way longer than I have. She took on the “full fat, full afternoon” version and successfully cut down on time and calories – down to 100 calories per serving, in fact. Color me impressed. That was a fun collabo – Pam, we need to do it again! Find her lighter, faster version here.

I still seem to tweak the recipe slightly every time I make it, and I now make it at least once a year due to popular demand. Sometimes from myself.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

Thanksgiving 2013 version

I’ve arrived at this recipe (below), which is a combination of the original and Pam’s. I think the extra creamy texture of the heavy cream is worth the fat content, as is a little extra bacon. However, I’ll likely always use canned pumpkin versus the more time-consuming, straight from the pumpkin patch method. Over time I’ve ditched the Tabasco called for in the original, and stopped concerning myself over some of the details, such as whether my paprika is Hungarian. I also added nutmeg to balance the flavors, and forgot that the original didn’t include it.

I encourage you to taste test along the way and add more heat or mellow it with more sweetness as you go. Therefore, measurements may not be exact and I mean it when I say “to taste”!

I have yet to find canned pumpkin in Dubai…insert sad face here. Thankfully, my family is visiting soon and I’ve asked them to bring me some! We’ve done this before…because we are a totally normal family that travels internationally with canned goods in our suitcases. Until then, enjoy some soup for me!

Laura’s Spiced Pumpkin Soup

3 tbsp butter
3-4 slices bacon
1/4 cup chardonnay
1 large onion, chopped
1 or 2 serrano chiles (or similar) broiled til skin is charred. Seeds removed, roughly chopped.
2 large cans (or 4 small) pumpkin puree
4 cans chicken broth (about 6.5 cups)
1/4 cup maple syrup (more to taste)
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne (to taste)
salt and pepper (to taste)
2 cups half & half or heavy cream, depending on your diet!
1 tsp nutmeg (more to taste)
Green onion garnish (optional)

Roast the chiles over high heat on a rack or skewer on your stove-top burner, s’mores style. When the skin is charred all over, place the peppers in a paper bag (this helps make it easier to remove the skin). Leave them for about 10 minutes, then remove and peel the skin. Discard the stem and seeds, and chop the peppers coarsely.

In large stockpot, heat butter and bacon over medium heat about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until bacon starts to get crispy. Add chopped onion and stir occasionally for about 15 minutes, until they start caramelizing. Add chile, mix well.

Add wine, pumpkin and 3 cans broth. Stir well to combine. Add syrup, paprika, cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper and stir again. When it starts bubbling, reduce to low and cover. Stir once in a while for about 20 minutes.

Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. Return to heat. Stir in cream. Add some or all of the 4th can of broth, checking the texture. Add more syrup, salt or spice to taste. Garnish with green onion or additional nutmeg if desired.