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Shortage Schmortage

Um, hi.

Remember me?

The gal a little bit obsessed with pumpkin, currently?

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I’ve been trapped under a pile ‘o pumpkin… send help!

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Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cheese

There is a chain bagel shop that Tristan and I used to frequent back when I lived in Asheville, that has been selling pumpkin cream cheese come fall for years. I introduced Tristan to it years ago – long  before I started making everything from scratch. Now mine is superior… Mwahahaha!

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Better than Bruegger’s Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cheese!

Ingredients:

8 oz.  block cream cheese (I like to use the 1/3 less fat style)

3 TBSP. brown sugar

1/2 c. canned  pumpkin

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1.5 tsp. cinnamon (or more to taste)

1.5 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or more to taste)

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Directions:

Mix all ingredients together until smooth and creamy.

I generally start with a spoon, and then whip out my hand-mixer (could use stand-mixer as well – but for me it isn’t worth dirtying those components!).

Keeps in the refrigerator for 10 days.

The best part of my cream cheese (besides the taste, of course!)…? No funny ingredients! No thickeners, no added colors, no preservatives, and certainly no corn syrup!

Take a look at Bruegger’s ingredients…

Ingredients: PASTEURIZED CREAM, PUMPKIN BASE (PUMPKIN PUREE, CORN SYRUP, SUGAR, BROWN SUGAR, SPICES, CITRIC ACID, SALT, ANNATTO EXTRACT [FOR COLOR], SODIUM BENZOATE AND POTASSIUM SORBATE [PRESERVATIVES]), NON FAT MILK, MILK PROTEINS, LESS THAN 2% OF SALT, NATURAL ACIDS, XANTHAN, LOCUST BEAN, AND GUAR GUMS, POTASSIUM SORBATE (MAINTAINS FRESHNESS)

No thanks.

But this… this I can do.

Mmmm.

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Enjoy it on toast, pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, bagels, or my personal favorite… pumpkin muffins! (even better when topped with my pumpkin butter!)

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Pumpkin muffin and pumpkin butter recipes to follow… 

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Simple Homemade Applesauce (Unsweetened)

This is my super-simple applesauce recipe…  Really, it couldn’t be easier. With less than 10 minutes of hands-on time, there is NO reason not to make this. Immediately.

(Full-disclosure – this recipe requires a slow-cooker/crock-pot).

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Ingredients:

9 medium apples of your choice (preferably NOT Granny Smith – too sour!)

2 large lemons, juiced

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla extract

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With so few ingredients, it is easy to double or even triple this recipe (just make sure your slow-cooker is large enough!). For a batch and a half, I use this red 4-quart slow-cooker with no problem. If I was going to make a double or triple batch, I would move up to my 6-quart cooker.

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This is an unsweetened applesauce, and Tristan and I both love the taste. The combination of the vanilla extract and the cinnamon actually makes it taste a wee bit sweet, I believe.

Directions:

Wash your apples, but don’t worry about peeling them.

Core the apples, using the cheat-method like me – cut all four “cheeks” off the sides of the apple, leaving the core intact ( and ta-da! a cored apple).

Slice or chop your apples into large chunks. (you certainly don’t need to waste your time being precious about the size or shape – it doesn’t matter at all).

Plop the apple slices into the slow-cooker, add the lemon juice, vanilla extract and sprinkle in the cinnamon.

Put the lid on, and set your cooker to LOW.

Cook on low for 5-6 hours, and enjoy the most amazing smelling kitchen during this time!

Once your apples are soft and juicy, mash with a potato masher, to achieve the applesauce consistency you desire.

Then, if you’re like me – whip out the immersion blender and go to town. It doesn’t take long. The skins blend right up, giving the applesauce a lovely hue, and TASTE!

I for one, don’t like the mouth-feel of cooked apple skins (eww), but I want the nutritional benefits of the skin. (And let’s be honest – I don’t want to peel that many apples, either!). So, I found a way to leave the skin on, while ending up with a smooth final product…  blending!

I use my Cuisinart immersion blender, but you could certainly blend the cooked apples up a blender, (working in batches), as well. Or, if you don’t have issues with cooked apple skins separating from the apple bits (again – ewww), just stop at the mashing step.

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We keep this in the refrigerator for about a week… IF it lasts that long. A week is about my standard time-frame for food safety and freshness, when it comes to home-cooking, it seems. This applesauce also freezes well, if that’s your thing.

Enjoy!

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WIAW – Autumn In My Tummy

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It’s that time again…  What I Ate Wednesday! Better yet, the first one of the fall… Where every meal contained a winter squash! Pumpkin, butternut and spaghetti squash… oh my!

Breakfast…

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Iced coffee, and Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats in a jar.

Mid-morning pick-me-up…

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A nice hot cuppa.

Lunch…

veggie-ful lunch

My Minestrone soup (contains butternut squash – recipe coming later today), raw veggies (carrots, cukes and peppers) and lightened-up hummus, with iced tea for hydration (and caffeine!).

Dinner…

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Spaghetti squash, roasted with garlic and olive oil, with a simple marinara sauce and 1 oz of parmesan cheese. And an unpictured glass of vino, naturally.

Yet another day that I am so happy that I eat seasonally.

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Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats

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I made this for breakfast this morning, and it was so delicious, I just had to share!

In the mix:

1/3 c. milk of choice (I used organic 2%)

1/3 c. rolled oats

1 TBSP chia seeds

1 small banana (or 1/2 large), chopped

3.5 oz plain Greek yogurt (I used 2%)

1/16 tsp. cinnamon (or to taste)

pinch of salt

splash of vanilla extract

3 TBSP canned pumpkin

1-2 TBSP pumpkin butter (recipe coming tomorrow!) for the bottom

Mix all ingredients EXCEPT the pumpkin butter together. Spread pumpkin butter in the bottom of your vessel of choice (for me it’s always a pint Ball jar), and then pour in the overnight oats. Let sit to thicken (refrigerate just a couple of hours, or overnight).

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This was amazing. And hey – I got my fruit and some veg in with breakfast! Win.

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Good to the last drop!

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Weekends

Weekends always go by far too quickly. My life is busy, busy… and I look forward to my weekends, like a kid looking forward to Xmas.

Though I usually have so much that I want to accomplish, that they end up being just as busy as my weekdays… and… well… it’s just a vicious circle really.

However, this past weekend, I was able to take a well-deserved lazy day on Saturday. I had gotten off of work a few hours early on Friday, and was able to do my weekly grocery shopping, as well as a much-needed trip to Costco that afternoon. Then I came home and turned my kitchen into pumpkin-flavored heaven, as promised.

Pumpkin muffins (so moist and doughy!), pumpkin butter and pumpkin cream cheese. All made with real food ingredients, and respectably healthy.

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Put all three together, and you have a winning combination, as we happily discovered…

super deluxe muffins

Saturday morning was my usual ritual of Farmers’ Market and coffee…

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I was thrilled to find GREENS at the market again… and (possibly?) went a little crazy, buying Collards (two types), and arugula! As well as 3 green peppers, breakfast radishes, and something called ‘Asparagus Beans’… (they look like Chinese Long Beans to me). I also bought some fingerling potatoes, eggs and some chicken breasts… as well as these super-cute itty-bitty tomatoes …

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Awwww.

I returned home in a light drizzle, to find Susan and Victor (Tristan’s Mom and nephew) at our house, hanging out. After Susan and I caught up -we’re both quite chatty (much to Victor’s dismay – 12 year old boys get bored pretty easily around women); they headed out, and that marked the end of my productive day! The rest of the day was spent in sweats, on the couch with Tristan, watching the first season of Raising Hope on DVD, and taking a nap.  It rained, it poured, and we lounged. Fantastic. I didn’t even have to cook dinner, courtesy of Mellow Mushroom and my lovely boyfriend who went to pick it up.

We were excited for the premiere of Saturday Night Live with Alec Baldwin, and bought some Schweddy Balls in his honor. It didn’t disappoint! (The ice cream or the show!).

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(If you don’t get that reference, I’m sorry, but we can’t be friends).

When it comes to relaxing, I’m normally such a guiltaholic (Tristan says it’s my Catholic school childhood!); but on Saturday I was able to take a step back, and not give myself a hard time for relaxing. I know I deserve it (always!), but sometimes it is honestly hard to let go.

Sunday morning I had a mini lie-in, and then a breakfast of coffee, local eggs and homemade pumpkin muffins.

Then it was back to the business of my weekend to-do list… multiple loads of laundry, and of course, keeping busy in the kitchen.

I turned these… applesauce1

into applesauce. (will post the recipe tomorrow)

And I  lightened up my favorite hummus recipe, by using some vegetable broth (not exactly authentic – but rest-assured there was evoo and tahini in there – just less of it – as I tend to eat hummus by the boatload).

Sunday night I made my Minestrone soup (recipe to come), and indulged in a giant bowl of healthy comfort food. Seriously, it is so GOOD. I’ve been eating it nonstop ever since.

I also enjoyed my first Schlafly Pumpkin Ale this weekend, as well (which came to me all the way from Illinois! More on that later).

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Do you find it easy to ‘let go’ and relax on the weekends….? Or are you a control-freak, like me? :)

~

Tumbling Into Autumn

Finally!

My favorite time of year. I come alive in the autumn… I swear, October and November are my happiest months.

Cool temps, local apples, changing leaves, Halloween, hot oatmeal, my birthday, local greens (kale! arugula! collards!), hot lattes, festivals, winter squash, jeans, Thanksgiving… and all things PUMPKIN! These are my favorite things.

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Speaking of pumpkin… I have a confession to make…

My name is Angie, and I’m a hoarder.

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Clearly.

I made a point to not run out this past year, as I make Lilly’s homemade dog treats with canned pumpkin. However, I just heard that we might be facing another pumpkin shortage…?!?! Say it ain’t so. (I’m going to attempt to add to my stockpile later today! If I can find it, that is).

I quickly searched “pumpkin” on my Flickr photostream … Was there a shortage of results? Definitely not…

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Seeing as how I’m a stickler for the seasons, I’ve been waiting with bated breath for the autumnal equinox. However, it seems that I was just about the only one. Everyone these days wants things to happen faster and earlier… but not I. Just NOW can I embrace pumpkin-flavored things, and the possibility of long-sleeves (unfortunately it has still been in the 80s this week!). While I tend to shy away from sickly-sweet flavored coffee drinks, I have been hearing the siren song of the Pumpkin Spiced Latte at Sbux for weeks now. Not before the 23rd, I would declare, to anyone who would listen!

However, now that it is here… pumpkin madness starts today! I can’t wait to make my famous pumpkin butter this afternoon, among other things. To add to my joy, I have a half-day off of work today, with the afternoon set aside for recipe creations… mmm.

Stay tuned!

Our backyard, Fall 08

Welcome, fall.

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WIAW–Nothing Fancy

Despite the fact that I did my “big” shopping last weekend (meaning $100+ at both EarthFare AND Trader Joe’s each; along with a basic HT run for $45), it hasn’t been showing in my food this week. Wha? Who knows. Call it busyness, laziness, and the desire to eat “comfort food”. Also, I seem to have forgotten how to buy vegetables at the grocery store, as opposed to the Farmers Market. The FM is a leeetle slow these days, being in that limbo space between summer and fall. I believe in buying seasonally (within reason), and am a bit stuck right now. So, don’t be appalled at the dire lack of green veggies here…

I. Am. Aware. Smile

This WIAW features a distinct lack of green veggies, and a low-key birthday celebration… enjoy!

 The past two mornings I’ve eaten this…

yogurt smoosh

In the mix:

Total 2% Plain Greek Yogurt

TBSP HoneyCrunch Peanut Butter (homemade)

TBSP Strawberry Rhubarb Jam (gift from Gram)

2 Mini Banana Oat Bran Muffins (homemade – recipe coming this afternoon!)

Sprinkle of chia seeds

As much as I love my yogurt smooshes, this is an unusual combo for me. I’m usually all about the fresh fruit and crunchy granola on top of my yogurt… but this is a nice compromise, before moving into my staple hot oats of autumn.

I’m still on the iced coffee, but foresee switching back to my beloved lattes and French press soon. Well… as soon as it ceases being 80-something degrees here every. damn. day!

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Lunch has also been on repeat this week…

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In the mix:

2 Lundberg Brown Rice Cakes

1/2 c. Refried beans

1 oz goat cheese

Cholula, salt, pepper

And…

leftover homemade sweet potato “fries”, with a big dollop of organic ketchup on top, served cold. (Yes, I like my leftover sweet potato fries cold. Always).

Where is the green!?!!?!?

Afternoon snack of a LOCAL apple (hooray for apple season!)

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Yesterday happened to be my Mom’s birthday. As my Dad was out-of-town on business, and Tristan was hanging with the guys, I took her out for a “nothing fancy” girls birthday dinner out.

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Our first stop was Dish  for a local OMB beer and veggie plates for both of us.

(I don’t have any pics from here, as it was exceptionally dark at our table).

I had the Three Vegetable Plate with…

Smoky Lima Beans, Mashed Red-skinned Potatoes, Collards (GREEN!!!), a deliciously fluffy biscuit and half a deviled-egg.

For dessert and coffee, we trekked over to Amelie’s

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Salted Caramel Brownie, anyone?

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Bella was there to greet us, when I dropped my Mom back off at her house. Cute puppy pics, just because!

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I didn’t get home until after 11pm, which is insanely late for me on a weeknight. (Oooh, wild-child!). Needless to say, I’m knackered today. ZzZzZzZzZzZz.

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Yiasou!

The second weekend in September here in Charlotte, means one thing to me… Greek Fest!

I’ve been going to the Yiasou Greek Fest since I first moved to Charlotte in the 6th grade. We used to walk there for a field-trip from my Elementary school… and the tradition continued into adulthood. Any year that I’ve been living in Charlotte come September, that is where I will be.

It’s a big, loud, Greek party – that has been going strong since 1978 (just like me!)

Highlights…  Mythos beer, Spanakopita, Frappe, and Greek coffee… ohhhh, the coffee.

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After getting our fill of the festival and deciding it was time for dinner, we scoped out the food lines, and finding the line for Gyros and Kota Pitas (T’s choices) particularly massive, we decided to take our food to go. Thankfully, the Yiasou fest has a drive-thru! We picked up what turned out to be a ton of food to take home and enjoy on the comfy couch, while catching up with Fringe on Blu-Ray.

I had the Baked Fish, which came with all sorts of sides. I broke my “only local humane meat” rule and sampled a bit of everything… from the dolmade to the pastichio. All delicious. And then… there was dessert…greek fest15

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Babies Are Delicious

Er, Fudge Babies, that is. Don’t want you to get the wrong idea here.

Lucy over at Porridge & Parsnips  (btw – don’t you just love her blog name?), made a bunch of CCK’s Fudge Babies the other day. After reading Lucy’s post, I knew what I would be doing last Friday evening.

I bunked off from cooking dinner and sent Tristan to Mellow Mushroom (pizza for him, veggie sandwich and Greek salad for me), and then got to work deciding which variety of “baby” make. (I don’t read CCK’s blog, and was unaware of this phenomenon). I have however, made date balls before (which is basically what these are), but I called them Powerballs. Oh yeah. Anyway, I settled on the Samoa and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavors. The Samoas sounded the best to me, but I felt that I should make a non-coconut version for T to enjoy, as well. (Despite the fact that coconut is not his favorite food, he enjoyed the Samoas the best! Go figure).

I made a few changes with the Samoa Babies… namely that I added a handful of cashews to the mix (they were originally nut-free), and also I rolled them in shredded unsweetened coconut when they were finished. This was definitely not a mistake. And it made them so festive looking, to boot! Other than those little changes, I think I followed the recipes to the letter.

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This was a quick and easy way to get delicious treats in about 30 minutes. A messy hand, notwithstanding! ; )

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