Day 1 of Halloween Week – Happy Anniversary & Spicy Toasted Seeds!

It’s an exciting week at DinnerCakes! We’ll be doing a Halloween theme this week with some fun and festive ideas. Also, yesterday was DC’s 1 Year Anniversary!

It’s hard to believe it’s been one full year of adventures in the kitchen (we’ve had great success and some real flops!). We’ve tried to broaden our horizons.. I work a little harder to add veggies to my dinners (see Pineapple Mango Chicken Curry, Ravioli with Asparagus, Spinach and Peas and Taco Salad with Drunken Black Beans). Edwin learned that he can go on vacation, eat things that would make Ronald McDonald blush and still call himself a flexitarian when he gets home (see Greetings From The West – Day 1, Travel Day 2 – A Little Mexican, A Little Hype and Food Photography – Ribs and Cactus Fries). 🙂

seeds

We also completely overhauled our site design and banner, and added several new features such as Our Favorites, an archive of our Kitchen Tips and Food Photography and an About Us page. Hopefully the quality of our photos will also continue to improve (I got a new camera after a few months of blogging and man, it’s hard to look at some of those early photos with the point-and-click camera!).

Have I gotten Edwin to enjoy pumpkin yet? No, but he does seem a little more open to the idea of trying some things? Do we have a perfectly seamless recipe archive yet? No, but I can tell you that it’s in the works!

Clearly the upcoming year will hold new adventures and new challenges. What kinds of everyday recipes will I come up with to make my clinical rotations in the hospital a little easier? I’ve received a lot of requests for crock pot dinners, so you can probably look forward to more of that here. Will Edwin learn to embrace healthy and lean meats like fish? Just how many cookies will both of us eat at this year’s Third Annual Bake-A-Thon (and how disgusting will we feel afterwards…)? Only one way to find out!

But back to Halloween Week –

Probably a lot of you will be carving your pumpkins soon (and following our tips to make your Jack-o’-Lanterns last!). Don’t just throw away all that goo inside – you can make some tasty and healthy treats that are actually fun to eat. Pumpkin seeds contain both of the “good” fats – omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They’re a great source of iron, too.

roasted seeds

Spicy Toasted Pumpkin or Acorn Squash Seeds
adapted from Simply Recipes

1 small/medium pumpkin
salt, chili powder, cayenne
oil

After carving and scooping out the insides of your pumpkin, preheat your oven to 400F. Separate the seeds from the pulp (be careful if you have contact dermatitis with squash like I do!) and rinse.

While oven preheats, boil seeds from one small/medium pumpkin in 2 cups of water with a dash of salt. Simmer for about 10 minutes, then drain.

Line cookie sheet with foil and brush with oil. Add the drained seeds to a small bowl and season with desired amounts of salt, chili powder, cayenne (easy on the cayenne, heavier on the chili powder) and a drop of oil. Stir until combined. Spread over the cookie sheet in one layer and bake for 12-15 minutes. Be sure not to overcook (they’ll start to get pretty dark if overcooking). Cool before serving.

Notes:
I like to eat mine whole, but some people prefer to remove the outer shell.
This recipe will also work well with acorn squash seeds (that’s actually what I used in these photos).
Enjoy Pumpkin Seeds plain, in salads, added to granola or in breads! For some fancy spice combos, check out 101 Cookbooks.

Yogurt with Honey, A Natural Immune Builder

It’s true – I am a little crazy this week. Tomorrow I’ll be taking a few finals/tests for a class in my nursing school program, and in just six days I’ll start giving [supervised] patient care. Eep!

settingup

It’s safe to say I’ve been spending a lot of time on school, so it’s great when foodie things enter the discussion – last week one of our graduate advisors mentioned that her husband is a bee keeper, and one of the things they do in the fall and winter to boost their immune systems is mix some plain yogurt with raw honey.

yogurt

I use plain yogurt for cooking and baking (see Tandoori Inspired Chicken and Red Potatoes, Spiced Chicken Kebabs and “Dad-approved” Blueberry Lemon Loaf), but I’m not a fan of just plain yogurt. The honey makes it sweeter and less tart, and I feel like I’m doing something reasonably good for my body (I guess snacking on bittersweet chocolate chips doesn’t help my immune system…).

honey

I didn’t want to spend the money on raw honey or organic yogurt, so yes, I stuck with store brand and low-fat yogurt.. but feel free to dress this up with fancy organics as you see fit! Greek yogurt would probably be most yummy of all and raw honey really is a must if you want the full health benefits. Raw honey may help people who suffer from allergies, is a powerful antioxidant, contains natural antibiotics and is thought to stimulate the immune system into action.

honeyyogurt

The best part? It’s simple! Take a small serving of yogurt and drizzle on about a tablespoon of honey for flavor. Mix and enjoy!

Light Chicken Salad – What's Your Go-To Recipe?

So recently I wanted to create a really great light chicken salad. I know Edwin and I mention the grocery store in our hometown all the time, Ukrop’s, but they really do have great light chicken salad. Sadly the store bought chicken salad I tried at Harris Teeter in Northern Virginia was, well, gross!

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This is not the spectacular replica I was hoping for, but it’s a start. I read some forums where others have tried to recreate it, and it seems that the only ingredients used are chicken, celery and mayonnaise. Since it’s labeled “light” chicken salad in the store, I assume that means a low fat mayo is used. I used fat free Miracle Whip in place of mayo, and it didn’t knock my socks off.

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I’d really love some help on this recipe if any of you have suggestions or recommendations! I know it’s easy to go wild with chicken salad recipes (adding nuts, cranberries, etc.), but I’d really just like something very basic. What do you think?

chicken salad

Light Chicken Salad

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 to 1 cup of fat free Miracle Whip
1 baguette
paprika, salt, black pepper and cayenne to taste

Preheat oven to 400F and bake chicken (seasoned with spices above) for 20 minutes. Cut celery while chicken is cooling.

When chicken is cool, use a fork to shred. Combine shredded chicken, diced celery and Miracle with in a large bowl. Add additional spices as desired. Mix well, cover tightly, and chill until serving. Slice baguette while waiting.

Spinach and Mozzarella Stuffed Mushrooms

Edwin says he loves veggies, but I don’t think he cares for mushrooms very much. This is sort of crazy, right? What kind of flexitarian can’t appreciate some quality mushrooms?

baby bellas

It’s true, mushrooms are a fungus. They have no roots, leaves, flowers or seeds, and the thought of eating fungus is more than a little disturbing. But if you can put all that aside, they’re really a pretty neat food that can add great flavor to your meals.

baby bella capsdiced bellas

You might have guessed, they’re good for you! They can also be a little dangerous, as they’re sometimes confused with young specimens of the deadly poisonous destroying angel mushroom (destroying angel – what an amazing name!).

spinachcheesebellas

They do have some special storage and prep concerns that you may want to consider to preserve their moisture without becoming soggy and keep them fresh for several days (brought to you by whfoods.com:

ready for oven

  • Store loose button mushrooms in the refrigerator either in a loosely closed paper bag, wrapped in a damp cloth or laid out in a glass dish covered with a moist cloth.
  • Store prepackaged mushrooms in the refrigerator for up to one week in their original container.
  • Clean them using minimal water – wipe them with a slightly damp paper towel or kitchen cloth, as mushrooms are very porous and may absorb water during cleaning and become soggy.

stuffed

I made these for lunch recently one weekend for my husband Morgan and I, and we really enjoyed them. This is a fairly mild recipe – no strong, spotlight stealing spices or pungent cheeses. If you’d like more kick to yours, try sprinkling a little more cayenne over the top, or using a salty cheese like Pecorino Romano.

stuffedmushroom

Enjoy!

Spinach and Mozzarella Stuffed Mushrooms

1 medium prepackaged container of baby bella mushrooms
1/2 square package frozen chopped spinach, cooked
1/3 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 clove garlic, minced
12 turns of black pepper, 4 turns of salt
2 tablespoons Italian seasoned bread crumbs
cayenne pepper
extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350F. Wipe away any dirt on the mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Pop off the stems by hand (they come out much easier than if you try cutting) and dice stems.

Combine cooked spinach, diced mushroom stems, garlic and cheese (leaving out just a little bit of cheese) in a medium bowl. Using a small spoon, stuff mushrooms caps carefully so that they do not break.

Combine bread crumbs, salt, pepper, 2 or 3 taps of cayenne and a small glug of extra virgin olive oil in a small bowl. Bring together with a fork.

Sprinkle caps with remaining cheese and bread crumb mixture. Cook for 20 minutes; serve immediately.

Maybe it’s my engineering background or the way I was raised, but I hate wasting food. Whenever I have leftover ingredients I try to think of some way to use them. Often, I roast them, trying some new combination of herbs and/or spices, hoping for some new successful discovery (they’re all discoveries, just not all great ones). Even if it doesn’t become a big hit, I feel better knowing I used all I could. What can I say? I like efficiency.

Chickpeas

Last week I posted a recipe with chickpeas and if you used canned, then you probably had half a can leftover. That’s where this recipe comes in. Roasted chickpeas can be a great crunchy food to snack on. At the base, there’s just oil and a bit of salt; but you can easily experiment with other herbs or spices to see what you get.

Turmeric and Cumin Roasted Chickpeas

Cumin and Curry Roasted Chickpeas
This recipe is for two cups cooked chickpeas, but can easily be scaled down.

2 cups chickpeas; cooked, rinsed, drained, dried
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin seed
1 pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 450. Combine all the ingredients and place in a aluminum foil-lined roasting pan. Roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally so the chickpeas brown (relatively) evenly.

Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes and (optionally) add additional salt to taste. Chickpeas should be crunchy. Enjoy.