Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Toasted-Pumpkin-Seeds-sliced-pumpkin

October is finally here.  Crisp, bright days accompanied by cool nights make this the best time of year.  All kinds of fun stuff happens in October… pumpkin carving, baking, leaf peeping, football games.  I love the crinkly leaves and the sound they make when the wind catches them.  Hoodies and jackets come out of the closet, apple cider is kept warm on the stove, and everyone is digging out their crock-pots again.  If you are lucky, there is even a corn maze or pumpkin patch nearby that you can visit.

Every year when our kids were younger, we took them in early October to pick out their pumpkins.  I remember Bobby and Danielle being so excited as they chose their perfect pumpkin.  Then a few days before Halloween we would clean the guts out of the pumpkin and they would get to carve it.  On Halloween night we would place lit candles inside the jack-o-lanterns so that their creations could come to life.

Before they got to the really fun part (using a knife), they had to do the messy stuff.  Cleaning out a pumpkin can be kinda gross.  It is wet, stringy and smells weird.  I find it is easier to do if you use a big metal spoon to scrape all the fibers and seeds out into a big bowl.  Then, by hand, sift through the mess and extract the seeds.  If you are doing this with kids ( which I highly recommend), try to do it outside.

Toasting the seeds from your very own pumpkin is pretty cool.  Plus, you may be pleasantly surprised to discover that the seeds taste like popcorn.  As our kids got older, we turned the pumpkin carving into an event.  Other families joined in with us; all the Moms made soup in their crock pots to share, and it was a messy, but fun day.  Just thinking about that makes me want to grab a mug of warm apple cider and visit a pumpkin patch.  Enjoy!

Toasted-Pumpkin-Seeds-pumpkins

Ingredients

1 pumpkin

oil

salt

Directions

1. After slicing the top off the pumpkin, use a big metal spoon to scrape the fibers and seeds into a bowl.  The outer skin on my little pumpkin was 1/8 inch thick and hard as a rock.  I had to have Mark slice the top off of the pumpkin for me.

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2. Separate the seeds from the fibers (the gross part), and place in a bowl.  Pick out as much of the fibers and mush as possible.  Add water to cover the seeds.  Let soak a few minutes and then drain in a colander.  Using a paper towel, wipe the seeds.  This will remove any remaining strings as well as dry the seeds.Toasted-Pumpkin-Seeds-Mark-and-the-slime

Harvesting the seeds

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Soaking the seeds

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Seeds waiting to be baked

3. Sprinkle enough oil to lightly coat the seeds, salt them to your liking.  Mix well and pour seeds on a baking sheet.  Spread the seeds into a single layer.  Bake at 300°F. for about 30-40 minutes, or until slightly browned.

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Toasted seeds

Green Bay Packers Cheddar-Beer Queso

Superbowl-XLV-Menu-queso-with-pretzels

Adapted from Green Bay Packers Cheddar-Beer Queso by Stiletto Sports

 

In our family, showing some love for professional football is not unusual.  On the contrary, it is celebrated.  The guys are fans of the New England Patriots, Danielle is a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, and I am a proud Cheesehead!  I know that in some families everyone has the same rooting interest, but believe me, it is much more exciting to be pitted against each other like we are several times a year.  When our teams play one another, there is usually a pretty good amount of trash-talking that goes on. Sometimes this talking is backed up with a friendly bet.

I have special recipes for each team and this is the one for my team.  It is quick and easy to make, tastes great, and after you mix it all together, the queso can be poured into a small crock pot to keep it warm.  Enjoy!

 

Ingredients

16 oz. package Velveeta, diced

10 oz. can diced tomatoes with chiles, drained

1/2 cup Wisconsin beer

1 cup Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar, shredded

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Directions

1. In a pan over medium-low heat, melt Velveeta.

2. Add the tomatoes and stir.

3. Add the beer and stir.

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4. Add the sharp cheddar and mix thoroughly.  Add more beer if necessary to make a smooth queso.

5. Serve with big, fat bready pretzels to soak up all the gooey cheese.

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*If you are concerned about the amount of fat in this recipe (it is substantial), I would suggest that you try to fit some veggies into your tailgating menu.

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7 Layer Dip

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Recipe courtesy of Joyce Levesque

This recipe comes from my Mother-in-law, Joyce, and is one of our family’s favorite appetizers, it makes an appearance at all of our sports celebrations and most BBQ’s.  This dip could not be simpler to make, but you do need to start it several hours in advance.  I always make it the night before the event, so that the cream cheese-sour cream-salsa layer has time to firm up before I add the chopped accoutrements.

It is a colorful and tasty addition to the buffet table.  Recently I’ve even gone low-cal and low-fat with some of the ingredients, without affecting the flavor at all.  College football kicks off this weekend, and our Buckeyes will be defending their title this year…Go Bucs! and Enjoy!

Ingredients

15 oz. can refried beans

6 oz. container unflavored, fat-free Greek yogurt (this replaces the sour cream)

8 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese, softened

salsa (an amount that will make a loose mixture, I use about 18 oz.)

Co-jack cheese, grated (can use fat-free or low-fat)

1/2 large tomato, chopped, and seeded

3 green onions, chopped

1/2- 16 oz. can black olives, drained and sliced into thirds (or substitute 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained).

Directions

1. Choose a somewhat shallow serving dish, a deep-dish pie plate works well for this dip.  Spread refried beans in bottom of serving dish.

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2. Place softened cream cheese and Greek yogurt in a large bowl.  Using a wire whisk, mix cream cheese and yogurt with salsa.  The amount of salsa will depend upon your preference for spice, but keep in mind that the mixture should be quite loose.  It will firm up as it chills in the refrigerator.

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3. Pour the mixture over the refried beans, cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

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4. Remove dish from refrigerator.  Sprinkle grated cheese over entire surface of salsa layer.  Sprinkle chopped tomato, chopped green onion, and sliced olives over cheese layer.  Place in refrigerator, uncovered, until ready to serve.   Tortilla chips, especially Tostitos Scoops are great with this dip.

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Countdown to Football Season

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Back, Back, Back, Back Ribs by Chris Berman and Texas Caviar by Gale Sayers

Adapted from The NFL Family Cookbook, published by SMITHMARK Publishers, New York, NY

Well it is finally here, that time of year that all of us sports fans live for, football season.  College football kicks off next week, and the NFL kicks off the week after that.  Whether you are tailgating, watching a game with friends, or screaming at the tv with 100 other patrons in a sports bar, one thing is for sure…there will be food.

Countdown-to-Football-Season-ribs

If you are planning a football party, know this; there must be food before the game, snacks for during the game, something special brought out at half time, and a little dessert to nibble on throughout the day.  I always try to make as much food ahead of time as possible and have Mark operate the grill so that I’m free to watch all the pre-game stuff, and visit with the guests.

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Two of the following recipes come from The NFL Family Cookbook.  The first recipe is Back, Back, Back, Back Ribs from Chris Berman, the humorous ESPN sportscaster who is so well-known for giving the players funny nicknames in his broadcasts.  The second recipe is Texas Caviar from the legendary NFL Hall of Fame Running Back, Gale Sayers.

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Ribs and Brats, along with the Pasta Salad are great for eating before the game.  Texas Caviar with tortilla chips can be munched on all during the game, along with a veggie tray that includes your favorite dip.  Make some Chili in a crock pot and have all the fixin’s (shredded cheese, chopped onion, crackers, macaroni, etc.) ready before the game starts, then at halftime you can serve a great Chili Bar with very little effort.  Peanut Butter Cookies and Buckeyes are yummy at any time and will be gone before you know it, so make extras.  Here’s hoping your team has a great season…and Go Bucs!  Enjoy!

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Football Party Menu

  • Ribs
  • Brats
  • Pasta Salad
  • Halftime Chili Bar
  • Texas Caviar
  • Veggie Tray
  • Peanut Butter Cookies
  • Buckeyes

Buckeyes-buckeyes-on-pan

 

Baby Back Ribs Ingredients

6 pounds baby back pork ribs (each rack is about 3 pounds)

32 oz. ketchup

1/3 onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup brown sugar

3 Tablespoons lemon juice

3 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 Tablespoon Liquid Smoke

1 Tablespoon Louisiana pepper sauce

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Directions

1. Set up your gas grill for indirect cooking with the setting on low.  Cook the racks of ribs for about 2 1/2 hours.

2. After 1 1/2 hours prepare the BBQ sauce. Bring the sauce to a low boil and then simmer for about 1 hour.

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3.  Brush the BBQ sauce on the ribs and cook over a medium, direct heat for about 5 minutes. Flip the ribs, brush on some more BBQ sauce, and cook on the other side over the direct heat for about 5 minutes or until the ribs are browned to your liking.  Keep basting the ribs with sauce and move them to the back of the grill ( indirect) if necessary to allow the sauce to cook in to the ribs.

Countdown-to-Football-Season-ribs-on-the-grill

 

Texas Caviar Ingredients

2-14 oz. cans black-eyed peas, drained

1 -15 oz. can white hominy, drained

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

4 green onions, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1/2 large green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped (I used the tame jalapenos)

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped or snipped (cilantro would work well in this recipe, too)

1 8 oz. bottle Italian dressing

 

Directions

1. In a large bowl, combine the black-eyed peas and hominy.

Countdown-to-Football-Season-peas-and-hominy

2. Add the tomatoes, green onions, and garlic.  Mix well.

3. Add the green pepper and jalapeno peppers, onion and parsley (or cilantro).  Toss well.

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4. Pour the salad dressing over the vegetables and toss gently to coat well.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

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5. Drain, and serve with tortilla chips.

Wraps

Wraps-on-plate-with-apples

Recipe courtesy of the Commissary Deli at RAF Chicksands AB, England

Back in the early 90’s, while we were stationed at RAF Chicksands AB, England, I happened to be at the commissary deli counter one day when someone was picking up a party tray.  Unlike the usual party tray of folded meat and sliced yellow and white American cheese, this one was different.  It was so colorful and eye-catching, lying on a bed of curly lettuce.

I had never heard of a wrap before, and after seeing how pretty they looked, I was hooked; I had to know how to make one.  So I snagged a pen from my purse and spent the next ten minutes picking the brain of the girl working at the deli counter.  When I left the commissary that day I had all the ingredients necessary to make these wraps, and a sketched diagram of the placement of each element.

Tortillas come in lots of flavors and you can put nearly anything in a wrap.  Substitute leftover chicken, pork, or beef and the veggies of your choice for a quick weekday dinner.  You may even decide to have a warm wrap and fillings instead of a cold one.  If so, just place the tortillas on a plate, cover with a damp paper towel, and nuke for 30-45 seconds before filling them.

All these years later and we almost always have the ham and turkey wraps because they are still our favorite.  Every time I make them I have to make extras because Mark wants them for lunch the next day.  These wraps are wonderful party fare because all the work can be done the day before.  They are also great for after-school snacks or served during halftime of a football game.  However, they are especially nice served with fresh berries or peaches on a lazy summer day.  Enjoy!

 

Ingredients

1 package large tortillas (I used sun-dried tomato flavored)

1 8 oz. brick cream cheese, softened

dried chives or Italian seasoning (to flavor the cream cheese)

1/2 pound sliced cheese of choice

1-2 pounds meat of choice (if using deli meats, have them shaved as they look better in a wrap and you can stretch them further)

about 10 baby carrots, sliced thin, longways

3 green onions, chopped

1 head iceberg lettuce

 

Directions

1. Prepare the veggies and have all your ingredients layed out in front of you.  It is best if you work on one wrap at a time.  Mix the cream cheese and herbs of choice.

Wraps-tortilla

2. Spread a thin layer of the cream cheese mixture over the entire tortilla.

Wraps-with-cream-cheese

3. Referring to the picture, place the sliced cheese on one side only of the tortilla about 1/4 of the way around.  Cut the cheese in half if necessary.

Wraps-with-cheese

4. Place about 2 good handfuls of meat on top of the cheese.

Wraps-with-meat

5. Place carrot slices down the length of the meat.  Sprinkle chopped green onions over the meat.

Wraps-with-carrots-and-onions

6. Place a thick layer of iceberg lettuce on top of everything.

Wraps-with-lettuce

7. Tightly roll up the tortilla.  Slice the wrap into sections.  Serve cut-side up.

Wraps-on-plate-with-apples

After-School Snacks

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Hungry kids will grab the first thing they see when they walk in the front door.  No matter if your student is a cute little 8 year-old, or a full-grown 20 year-old, when classes are over they always seem to be starving.  To keep them from gravitating towards that bag of chips or box of cookies, it is important to have better snacks on hand.

Jalapeno-Crab-Cakes-with-Hot-Raspberry-Sauce-summer-fruit

There is a multi-million dollar industry that produces convenience foods aimed towards kids.  Most of them are loaded with sugar and salt, but they are convenient…and cute, have nice packaging, and look fun to eat.  Usually though, the best after-school snacks are the most basic; fruit, veggies, dairy, grains and a little protein.

After-School-Snacks-apple-in-slicer

Most fruits can be grabbed right out of the bowl or fridge and devoured as is.  You can also prep fruits and veggies; if the fruit has to be cut ahead of time, it can be soaked in a bowl of water with either lemon juice or Fruit Fresh to keep the fruit from turning brown (it works wonders on apples, pears, bananas, peaches, etc.) then drained and placed in the fridge.  Veggies can be sliced and diced ahead of time and placed in the fridge with a few ice cubes.

Blueberry-Sorbet-blueberries

Yogurt, cheese, and milk are all easy snacks as well.  And who says that cereal is only for breakfast?  Granola is great eaten by the handful, in a bowl with milk, or as a parfait with yogurt.  Crackers and cheese, sandwiches, and wraps are also filling and satisfying.  Pepperidge Farm has a bread called Deli Flats and I like to use the honey wheat variety for peanut butter sandwiches.

Pasta-with-Cherry-Tomatoes-tomatoes-in-colander

Figuring that dinner will follow a few hours after snack time, I tried to keep these snacks small, quick and easy.  You can use cookie cutters for an interesting twist, ranch dip or peanut butter to dress up celery and carrots, and small sticks to make fruit kebabs.  The cookie cutters and kebab sticks are not necessary, but they do make food fun.  Challenge your kids to come up with some fun and healthy snacks and they will be more willing to eat them.  Enjoy

Ingredients

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1. Cucumber hair, black seedless grape eyes

carrot nose and a big ranch dressing smile (make a slit in each cucumber ring so that you can easily link them)

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2. Ritz crackers, co-jack and mozzarella cheese cut-outs

celery with peanut butter and cherry tomatoes

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3. Pepperidge Farm Deli Flats with peanut butter

apple, banana, and black seedless grape kebabs

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4. Cucumber flowers, baby carrot slices, Keebler Toasteds crackers

mozzarella cheese chunks and cherry tomato halves.

Bobby’s Going-Away Party

Bobbys-Going-Away-Party-Bobby-at-the-mantle

Our son is a member of the United States Air Force.  He recently re-enlisted (on my birthday) for four more years.  We are so very proud of him and the path he has carved out for himself.  Four years ago I wrote the blog post for his going away party on a now defunct website.  In honor of Bobby and his renewed commitment to serving our country, I’m publishing the original blog post again.  Enjoy!

 

August 2011

I knew from the very beginning that part of my job, as a parent, was to nurture and assist our kiddos in their maturation process.  I also understood that eventually leaving the nest for good was the ultimate goal.  Sending two confident, responsible adults out into the world was how I had planned it from the very beginning.  What I failed to take into consideration was how hard it was going to be to let them go.  Danielle is gone, but only an hour away, and she comes home to smooze me when she or I need a little Mom and Daughter time.  Bobby, on the other hand,  is leaving us for good to begin a career in the Air Force.

I suppose if he had caused a lot of trouble, this would be easier, but he has been a great kid.  Bobby has a bubbly personality and enjoys being the life of the party.  Every day he cracks me up with his take on life, we follow sports together fanatically, and there’s never a dull moment when he is around.  I’m really going to miss him and I’m struggling with my emotions as the time for him to leave draws near.

In eight days we will go to Columbus and watch as our son swears his allegiance to the United States and commits to a life of serving his country.  He enters the Air Force following in the footsteps of his Mother and Father, a new generation carrying on the family business, and I’ve never been prouder of him.

Bobby wanted a burger and dog cook-out.  We were so fortunate that the weather held out, all week they were predicting rain (I did say a little prayer for that).  I made a lot of Bobby’s favorite side dishes and desserts; Snickerdoodles, Pasta Salad, Black-Eyed Pea Salsa, 7 Layer Dip, Brownies, fresh fruit, fresh veggies with Ranch dip, and these light-as-air cupcakes.  I got the recipe from one of my favorite websites, King Arthur Flour.  They were quick to put together and very tasty for a white cake.

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Tender White Cake is courtesy of King Arthur Flour

Ingredients 

2 3/4 cups KAF Cake Flour Blend

1 2/3 cups sugar

1 Tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoons salt

3/4 cups butter, softened

4 large egg whites, plus 1 whole egg

1 cup full fat vanilla yogurt or 1 cup whole milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract ( I used 2 teaspoons Princess Cake and Cookie Bakery Emulsion instead of almond extract)

Bobbys-Going-Away-Party-cupcakes

Directions 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place cupcake papers in pans, set aside.

2. Mix all dry ingredients on low-speed of mixer, to blend well.  Add soft butter, mix until evenly crumbly, like fine damp sand.

3. Add egg whites, one at a time, then whole egg, beating well after each addition.

4. In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt (or milk) with vanilla and almond extracts ( and/or bakery emulsion).  Add this mixture, 1/3 at a time, to the batter.  Beat 1-2 minutes after each addition.

5. Scoop or pour batter into cupcake papers and bake 18-20 minutes.  Makes 20-24 cupcakes.