Monday, October 19, 2015

Fatty Fall Foods

I wouldn't call myself a whiz in the kitchen - I pretty much stick to the same 5 meals every week. Being surrounded by picky people is one of the big reasons. I've branched out before and tried other recipes only to have them blow up in my face. I mean, not literally, but maybe that would've been better for everyone involved.

With that being said, there are a few things I know how to do well. Creamy mashed potatoes, for one. (I add cream cheese as my not-so-secret ingredient.) Cheesecake with Oreo crust is another. And I've been told that I make a good lasagna (but you never really know if people are just being nice.)

But the real way you know a recipe was a hit is when you get asked for the recipe. Cases in point:

Case #1: I was asked to participate in a pie-baking contest for a wedding. I've never baked a pie in my life (probably because I'm not a huge fan of pie crust. Or pie.) but I said yes. Mind you, I was feeling nauseous and sick and dizzy with growing baby #3 so I think I was having a psychotic moment where I deliriously/hastily agreed to something that I probably shouldn't have. I figured an October wedding, I should make pumpkin pie. Except I don't like pumpkin pie. But I LOVE cheesecake, so I decided to experiment with a pumpkin cheesecake pie with graham cracker crust and caramel pecan topping.

Yes, like I said, I was probably delirious from all the nausea and dizzy spells because I decided to EXPERIMENT for a WEDDING. As in, hey this could totally bomb and I would be screwed. But it actually turned out really well, in fact, I won second in the contest! Color me surprised. I got asked for the recipe twice so I knew that the bride and groom didn't just feel bad for a crazy pregnant lady who made a weird pie.

Case #2: For the first time in weeks, I felt really good on Friday. I was supposed to bring an appetizer for bible study and after raiding my pantry, I discovered that I actually had all the ingredients on hand to make spinach artichoke dip so I didn't have to go buy chips and salsa which is my go-to. Except the only other time I made spinach artichoke dip, I used a different recipe that was actually kind of greasy and not very flavorful so I decided to try a new recipe. I made the whole thing and set aside a small bowlful so Brian could try it. It got the husband thumbs up so I took it to bible study and was asked for the recipe, twice!

So here are the recipes for both. And because this is OBVIOUSLY not a cooking blog, I took a picture of the dish I used to cook both in. Nice and clean. With my phone. In horrible lighting. You're welcome.

Also, you could try to convince yourself that these wouldn't be so unhealthy to eat, but let's face it: fall is for leggings and extra fat to keep you warm anyway so don't even bother feeling guilty about it. Go ahead and make these for Thanksgiving and let the compliments roll in. You're welcome. Again.

Pumpkin Pie with Caramel Pecan Topping
  • 1 1/2 cups cinnamon graham cracker crumbs (from about 12 whole cinnamon graham crackers)
  • 6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) melted, unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, plus 2 egg yolks slightly beaten
  • 1 cup half and half (I forgot to add this but I think it just made it more dense, so if you add it, it should be fluffier)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 butter
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1-1.5 cups pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the crust ingredients together and press into a pie pan (and up the sides). Bake in the oven for 8 minutes and let cool. (I baked the crust but I think you can skip this step because it bakes while the filling is baking too.)

For the filling, in a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer (make sure you beat it first otherwise you'll have lumps of cream cheese in the pie). Add the pumpkin VERY slowly and beat until combined (otherwise you'll end up with cream cheese lumps). Add the sugar and salt, and beat until combined. Add the eggs mixed with the yolks, half-and-half, and melted butter, and beat until combined. Finally, add the vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger, beat until incorporated.

Pour the pie filling into the room temp crust and bake 50 minutes or until center is set (in my oven it took 1 hour and 15 minutes). Once the pie is done, remove from the oven and let cool for about 30 minutes.

For the topping, combine brown sugar, butter, cream, vanilla, and salt in a small pan. Cook while whisking on medium high heat until sauce thickens. Remove from heat and stir in pecans. Pour topping over pie and top with a few extra chopped pecans.

Spinach Artichoke Dip 
  • 3 Tablespoons Butter
  • 4 Tablespoons Garlic, Minced
  • 1 bag Spinach
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 2 cans Artichoke Hearts, Rinsed And Drained
  • 3 Tablespoons Butter (additional)
  • 3 Tablespoons Flour
  • 1-1/2 cup Whole Milk (more If Needed)
  • 1 package (8 Ounce) Softened Cream Cheese
  • 1/2 cup Crumbled Feta
  • 1/2 cup Grated Parmesan
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Turn up the heat a bit and throw in the spinach. Stir around and cook for a couple of minutes until the spinach wilts. Remove the spinach and garlic from the skillet and put it in a small strainer. Squeeze the excess juice back into the skillet. Chop spinach and set aside. Add the artichokes to the pan and cook over medium high heat for several minutes, until liquid is cooked off and artichokes start to get a little color. Remove the artichokes and chop.

In the same skillet, melt 3 additional tablespoons of butter and whisk in 3 tablespoons of flour until it makes a paste. Cook over medium-low heat for a minute or two, then pour in milk. Stir and cook until slightly thickened; splash in more milk if needed. Add cream cheese, feta, Parmesan, pepper jack*, and stir until cheeses are melted and sauce is smooth. Add artichokes and spinach. Stir to combine. Pour into baking dish. Top with extra grated pepper jack* and bake at 375 for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

*The original recipe called for pepper jack cheese but since I didn't have any, I didn't add it.