Thursday, October 27, 2011

roasted pumpkin seeds

With only 4 days 'til Halloween, I've been running around like crazy sewing costumes, buying face paint, and of course, carving pumpkins! I don't think it matters how old I am- I will always love carving pumpkins. This year, pumpkin carving was extra fun, thanks to a handful of my favorite ladies, and a couple bottles of wine.
Top left down: the grim reaper by Julie, a wine bottle & glass by Molly, and a vampire by me :)
Top right down: ghosts by Jenna, a witch by Megan, and an experimental gangster by Lisa

After the pumpkins were carved, and the wine was consumed, there was only one necessity left- roast the pumpkin seeds! If you've never roasted your own pumpkin seeds before, you have to try it. It's a healthy, delicious snack, and it's another way to put that beautiful pumpkin to good use.

Stuff you need: 1. Pumpkin seeds from that jack-o-lantern you just carved 2. Olive oil 3. Salt & pepper 4. Other spices of your choosing

Remove all the seeds from your pumpkin, and wash them thoroughly- it may take a couple of times to get all the gunk off. While you're rinsing the seeds, preheat your oven to about 350 degrees.

When the seeds are cleaned, pat them dry, and spread them onto a baking sheet. Douse the seeds in olive oil, salt, pepper, and any other spice you'd like. For a regular batch, we used plain old salt and pepper. For our spicy batch, we also threw in cumin, chili powder, and hot sauce.

Finally, pop the baking sheet into the oven and cook until the seeds are golden brown. We didn't really keep track of how long they were in the oven- just check on them every 5-10 minutes to shake them around, and add a little extra seasoning. When they are baked to perfection, take them out, and devour!
The left bowl is the regular batch, and the right bowl is the spicy batch- special thanks to Julie, for the great photo! ♥ Lovely ladies, beautiful pumpkins, and delicious seeds! I couldn't possibly think of a better way to get in the Halloween spirit on a chilly fall evening. 4 days 'til Halloween! I can't wait! :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

stingmata: super bumble bee

Can you believe Halloween is less than 2 weeks away? Yikes! I don't think this concept fully hit me until today when I realized that I need to make my costume ASAP! Luckily, Molly, Jenna, and I worked on them tonight, which reminded me of another homemade costume from a couple weeks ago.

Remember the chocolate raspberry cupcakes I made for my friend Jamie's birthday? Not only did the sweets turn out amazing, but so did my costume! Even though it was murder mystery attire, I think it could easily be used for Halloween too!

My character was Stingmata! My super power was poison, and the invitation suggested I wear an insect costume with matching cape. After a little bit of rummaging in my closet, and a quick trip to Michael's, I'm proud to say I made this badass bug suit for around $10!
Here's how I became Stingmata:
1. Used an old pair of black boots & shorts- but any footwear and bottom would do- Flats? Heels? A skirt, pants, or maybe a jumper?
2. I took a plain yellow t-shirt and used fabric spray paint & tape to create stripes- if you haven't used fabric spray paint yet, you have to try it! Tape off the areas your don't want painted, spray it down & let it dry. That's it! So easy.
3. For the antennae, I took plain black pipe cleaners, wrapped them around an old headband & curled the ends.
4. I purchased the black & yellow thigh highs from a Halloween store, cause thigh highs make every costume better :)
5. And finally, I re-discovered the cape I handmade last year for my Hamburglar costume to top it all off

Not only do I love how fun and easy this costume was to make, I also like the fact that it's completely customizable. Don't like the cape? Add some wings. Don't like bumble bees? Maybe be a ladybug. With the items in your closet and a little imagination, it doesn't take much to make a kickass costume. Hopefully my Halloween ensemble will turn out equally as awesome!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

homemade spinach ravioli wontons

I keep seeing recipes for homemade ravioli made easy with wonton skins, and last Thursday I finally decided to try my hand at making them myself! Little did I know that 5 of my friends would also like to try my food experiment, and I ended up making homemade spinach raviolis for 6 people, after a full day at the office, and a hardcore work out. *phew* I may have been exhausted at the end of it all, but it may have been worth it :)

Stuff you need: 1. Wonton skins 2. 1 Tub ricotta cheese 3. 2 bags spinach 3. Your favorite pasta sauce

Start by sautéing your freshly washed spinach in a little bit of olive oil, until it's completely cooked down. Now drain it, chop it, and mix it together with the tub of ricotta cheese, and any spice that you might fancy- I like garlic salt, Italian seasoning, and pepper.

Next, bring a big pot of salted water to boil while you start assembling your raviolis. For the pasta construction, simply take 1 square wonton skin, and place a little ricotta/spinach mixture in the middle- no more than 1 tablespoon. Now wet your finger with a little water, run it along the outside of the wonton skin, and then stack another skin on top, just like you're making a little sandwich. Smush the edges together with your finger or a fork, and there you have yourself your first ravioli!

Now do this like, 100 more times- or until you're out of filling- and when the water is at a rolling boil, start popping them in the water 2 or 3 at a time. They only need to cook for a couple minutes, and when they float to the top, pull them out with a spoon, slather them with your sauce, and plate it up!
Sounds simple, right? Minus the tedious factor, this is actually quite an easy meal. The wonton skins make the raviolis much lighter than their normal doughy counterparts, and they come together much faster than the traditional ones too. Unfortunately, individually stuffing 35 or so raviolis is just time consuming as hell, and near the end, I was so over it. Luckily, they turned out pretty delicious, and I'd be excited to try making them again- just not on a week night :)

Also, big thanks to all my fabulous photographers and taste-testers. I'm so glad you guys could join in on my culinary adventures- hopefully next time we'll eat before 9 pm. Ha!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

crockpot curry

Between the office, the gym, and the social life I try to balance, sometimes it's hard to find time to make an exceptional dinner. This, of course, is why I love my crockpot. Whenever life is feeling hectic, I pull out my slow cooker, throw everything in, and come home to fantastic meal after a long day. How great is that?

Last week I decided to make No Hurry Vegetable Curry from Robin Robertson's cookbook Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker. I made this same dish sometime last year, but added waaaay too much liquid, and it turned out really soupy. This time around, I stuck to the recipe, and it was simply amazing!
It definitely needed a bit more coconut milk, and a good helping of salt, but otherwise the recipe was perfect as it is. We also substituted broccoli for green beans, but any veggie would be great in this dish. It was a hot, delicious meal, that was ready the minute I walked in the door. It also fed me, my roommate, and Jenna- who took this beautiful photo- and we still had plenty of leftovers for the next day's lunch. If this recipe wasn't a total success, I don't know what is! :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

chocolate raspberry-filled cupcakes

Hello, and welcome to my new blog space! I thought it was about time to do some sprucing up, so here it is! I thought I'd start out fresh with a decadent recipe that's perfect for celebrating.

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a birthday party for one of my favorite people, Jamie! For her super-hero themed murder mystery, we were all instructed to come in costume, with something delicious to share. Luckily, I got dessert, and I knew I had to make something perfect for Jamie's big day. Enter, the most ridiculously delicious cupcakes I have ever made. They are to die for.

For the Chocolate Cupcakes
Stuff you need: 1. Devil's food cake mix- I went with good ol' Betty Crocker 2. Canola Oil 3. Happy chicken eggs 3. Water 4. Raspberry preserves- at least 2 jars

So this part might be a no brainer, but combine the cake mix, canola oil, eggs, and water according to the directions on the back of the box. Give it a good mixing, and when it's properly combined, pour it into your cupcake pan- either greased, or with cupcake papers- and cook for the appropriate time, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Here's where it gets tricky! When the cupcakes are all cooked and cooled, take a paring knife, insert it into the top of the cupcake, and carve out a little cone/hole shape in the center. Pull out the cupcake core you just made, fill the hole with a little raspberry preserve, and then pop the top back on the hole. Voila! A raspberry jam filled cupcake! I know it sounds confusing, but after the first one, it's super easy.

After all the cupcake have been stabbed and jammed, they might look gross, but no one will ever know after you frost them :)

For the Raspberry Buttercream Frosting (from Sammy W)
Stuff you need: 1. 1 cup butter 2. 1/2 cup raspberry preserves 3. 4 cups powdered sugar

For this ridiculously tasty frosting, use a mixer to combine all the ingredients, and when everything is incorporated together , swirl it on top of your cupcakes, top with a fresh raspberry, and devour. That's right. Don't even wait to get to the party. You should probably try one right now.
Aren't they beautiful? Trust me. Their appearance can only be topped by their by their mind-blowing taste. The rich dark chocolate is perfectly partnered with the fresh, berry flavor from the frosting and the jam hidden in the middle. The frosting is also outstanding- not overly sweet, but just right. I don't think it's possible for me to gush about these cupcakes enough. If you need an impressive, and ridiculously amazing dessert for your next celebration, you've got to try these. I promise you won't be disappointed :)

Also. Special thanks to Mom for the beautiful photography♥

Monday, October 3, 2011

almost vegan pizza

What could be better than starting off Vegetarian Awareness month with a meat-free pizza party?! Pizza is one of those wonderful, easy, versatile meals that I can never get sick of. Seriously, you could put anything on a pizza and it would be delicious.

Last week, me and the roommate opened opened some wine, watched Project Runway, and made ourselves some fantastic homemade pizzas!

Stuff you need: 1. Pre-made pizza crusts- we like the ones from Whole Foods- you get 2 per pack 2. Any toppings your heart desires!

Once again, anything on a pizza will taste amazing. Here were our concoctions:
Molly's Pizza!
Side 1: Brie, chopped garlic, carmelized onions, & arugula
Side 2: Tomato sauce, broccoli, zucchini, green bell pepper, & mozzarella cheese

My pizza!
Side 1: Tomato Sauce, zucchini, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, & onion
Side 2: Tomato sauce, tomato slices, fresh basil, & almond cheese

While Molly's pizza was very cheesy, I decided to go with an almost vegan version. My favorite non-cheese cheese is the almond or rice cheese made by Lisanatti Foods. I completely fell in love with it a few years ago, while looking for vegan options to my favorite foods. The texture is impeccable- melts alright, and can be shredded- it's not slimy like a lot of soy cheeses, and best of all the flavor is great. UNFORTUNATELY, it's made with casein, so after all my searching, my favorite vegan cheese isn't vegan at all *sad trombone* If you're looking for a healthy alternative to cheese, I highly recommend this stuff. However, if you're morally opposed to any and all dairy products, this one isn't for you :(

Anyway, it was a delicious pizza party. Both versions were super tasty, and made plenty of food for our lunches the next few days. For next time, Molly recommends getting good quality brie (instead of the cheap-o stuff) so it melts better, and I recommend sautéing the veggies before applying them to the crust, for more flavor, and delicious pizza cohesion. Great night. Great food.

ALSO! Don't forget to check out VeganMoFo when you get the chance! I was too nervous to join in this year, but they're only 3 days in, and there's already TONS of amazing looking dishes! Maybe next year I'll grow a pair and join in the fun :)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

world vegetarian day

Happy World Vegetarian Day everyone! October is the best month of the year, and it's not just because of Halloween, and pumpkin flavored everything. October is also Vegetarian Awareness month, Vegan Mofo, and to top it off, it all begins today with World Vegetarian Day! Did you celebrate today? Enjoy any meat-free adventures?

There's lots of animal-free fun coming up this month & I can't wait! :)