Monday, November 7, 2011

Fall for Pumpkin Cuisine

Fall for fall in my neck of the North End woods.

I'll be honest, I was never much of the fall type.  I loathed fall.  It was the end of my sunny, warm season of relaxation and of course, my birthday!  July 25th, LEO if you were wondering, fun fact if you weren't! I never found it beautiful, refreshing nor influential in any way.  All of that has changed and now I count down the dog days of summer, anticipating the arrival of the crisp breeze to flow through the air and bring with it all of the things I love most.

(1) Back To School. Back to waking up at 5am, sports, practices + games, academics, studying + tests, scholastic clubs, volunteering on weekends...AKA no sleep.  I was an overachiever.

(2) Carefree days of sleeping in, unlimited swimming, Hey Dude watching and my birthday were all over ...and worst of all...

(3) Preparing for the cold. Swimsuits couldn't pass as my daily wear, pants replace shorts, and then thinking about how snow is just around the thanks.


(1) FASHION! New trends, styles, colors, looks. Boots, scarves, jackets, hats, gloves + layering, OH MY! 

(2) Inspiration. 
Here in the City of Trees, the North End (as pictured above) reigns supreme for gorgeous views.  The North End is sheltered by giant trees, bouquets of greens giving way golds, bold maroons, bright yellows and copper tones.  
The hippie fest that is Hyde Park Street Fair at the end of September just fills me with joy! Hot toddies, spiked ciders
+ coffee! Warming up has never been so YUMMY! 

(3) HOCKEY SEASON!! As I mentioned in a previous blog, I am a Washington Capitals fan when it comes to NHL + we're SO lucky to have a team here in Boise for me to enjoy as well!  The Idaho Steelheads are in the ECHL and let me tell you, live games are a BLAST! I've sat everywhere in that arena including the Gold Club and the sweet suite seats! 

The chants are both fun and a bit silly at the same time, we have a mega awesome announcer that gets you pumped up and the music is an unheard of mix of M.I.A. to things that make you go hmmm, Nickelback. HA!! Either way, the game is always in motion, there are BRAWLS, blood, broken sticks, penalties, power plays, OTs and shootouts! 

...It also doesn't hurt if our team scores during the Bud Light Quench Time giving you $2 Bud Lights for the rest of the night. Nor does it hurt when your team wins + takes you all the way to the Kelly Cup Playoffs! Hint Hint, Wink Wink Steelies! :)

An exciting evening at the CentuyLink Arena with the Idaho Steelheads playing the Las Vegas Wranglers. The Steelies sent the Wranglers home after defeating them 6-2! Way to go, Idaho! 

BUT my most favorite fall thing of all is COOKING + EATING! I skipped the Halloween candy + went straight for what's in season, the mother of all squashes and the icon of fall eating, the Pumpkin!
Last year, I didn't carve a pumpkin let alone think about the dishes I could create with this nutrient-packed squash. Pumpkins are a good plant source for lutein and both alpha and beta carotene which helps keep your immune system healthy and is great for vision.  Beyond a store bought can of pumpkin, or worse, store bought pumpkin pie, the interaction with most people and a pumpkin is gutting it and carving it for Halloween and maybe eating oven roasted pumpkin seeds.  I decided to go further and create as many dishes as I could with a single pumpkin. So, I did some research and found out prepping and cooking a pumpkin is amazingly simple.
  • Take one organic pumpkin (the beauty seen on your left was grown by my mother. Thanks, MOM!). 
  • Rinse gently 
  • Poke holes with a knife all around the pumpkin. 
  •  Pop it in the oven at 375 degrees and cook until you can pierce through the pumpkin with a fork with ease.
  • Cut in half and let cool 
This makes gutting the pulp and seeds a BREEZE!  Plus the skin should easily peel right off!

After the cleaning part was over I separated pulp + seeds.  Pulp went along with the skin into my lovely neighbors compost pile (they encourage it) and the seeds went went into the oven in two batches:  savory + sweet!
The savory batch was lightly dusted with sea salt and the sweet batch had a light coating of maple syrup and pumpkin pie spice.  Next up you take the flesh of the pumpkin (the good stuff!) and dice it into chunks and puree those bad boys.  Easy does it with a food processor or high speed blender and keep in mind you may need to add water to the mixture.  With a medium sized pumpkin you can get in between 3-4 cups of pumpkin puree.  

You can do SO much with pumpkin puree.  I wanted to do the standard, festive pumpkin pie, but I decided to do something a little bit more daring.  After finding a pumpkin pasta sauce recipe I knew I wanted to do a pasta dish.  Upon further diving into the internet sea of vegan recipes I found the dish.  PUMPKIN GNOCCHI!  The dish of my not-so-healthy childhood dreams, just turned into a healthier version.  The last time I had gnocchi was right before my 12k Race in the Foothills this past summer.  Even then, it was a vegan mushroom gnocchi i picked up at the Boise Co-op - healthy and packed with carbs, the perfect pre-race dinner!

Pumpkin Pie? Think outside of the box:  Pumpkin Gnocchi!
Pumpkin Gnocchi with an Olive Oil + Garlic Sage Sauce 
Since I wasn't preparing to run a 12k and tend to cook gluten and grain free these days (I'll get to that in another, later post) I had to alter the original recipe a bit.  I also played around with the spices + switched it up to be more savory, letting the pumpkin be the main sweet source of this dish.  I used two alternative flours for this dish:  mainly quinoa flour and for additional flour needed, tapioca.  
I went with a basic olive oil and sage sauce to toss the gnocchi in so that I wasn't overpowering it with a heavy alfredo or a dominating tomato sauce.  I wanted to keep it as unveiled as possible.  

The olive oil + sage combination was a perfect touch to the hint of sweetness the pumpkin gnocchi provided.  The other nice thing about this dish is that both the gnocchi and sauce was done in minutes.  No waiting for this to thicken and that to simmer. Once your water is boiling, which I started while shaping the gnocchi out, you can throw the pasta in and within minutes they will start to float which indicates they are done.  Same with the olive oil sauce.  Adding spices, chopped garlic and heating up takes only a few minutes.  Simply toss the gnocchi with the sauce and voila, ready to serve!    

3 delicious, Vegan Molasses Gingersnaps went missing from a batch of 15. Can you blame us?!

Gingersnap cookie crust

After that tasty entrée, I was most certainly ready to make the next course:  dessert!  Making a pumpkin pie was a definite no-brainer, but this one would be tricky!  This was both my first vegan and gluten + grain free pumpkin pie! This was made completely from scratch as well.  First was the Gingersnap cookie crust.  I followed a vegan recipe and had to make certain substitutions to keep this a grain and gluten free dessert.  When I made the cookies, I baked them a bit on the thicker side so that they were chewy.  I figured letting them sit out overnight in an open bag would dry them out a bit. I was wrong. I compensated by putting them back in the oven to bake them a bit more, except they baked a little longer than I wanted and the bottoms were well, on the darker side but alas, they were crispy! I rolling pinned those suckers down in a bag until they were little cookie crumbs (take out any aggression at that point!), mixed with vegan butter in the processor, press into pie pan + bake for 8 minutes...simple!  For the filling I used my pumpkin puree, spices, sugar etc. Of course there was one substitution! There's almost always at least one in every recipe.  The recipe called for store bought vegan cream cheese.  I opted to try making my own vegan cream cheese.  I usually stay away from soy along with anything highly processed, but this was one of the times that I made an exception.  I made my silken tofu based vegan cream cheese + it turned out to taste not too far from the real deal! 

A little slice of alternative pie heaven! MMM!
After adding a decorative heart-shaped sprinkle of extra Gingersnap cookie crumbs (which slightly over cooked had a mocha-like flavor) and a quick bake session, the easy part was done! The hard part is waiting for it to cool down in order to have a slice!  Eventually, I was able to sit down and enjoy a slice (best when chilled) with a cup of Almond Breeze milk!

A well deserved treat for working my vegan buns off in the kitchen this weekend!

This is exactly what I mean by gaining inspiration from fall.  It's the only season to truly jumpstart my creativity!  I am very excited for many other recipes, especially 
Thanksgiving Day dishes I have yet to take on, veganize and make gluten and grain free.

Sweet 16 days 'til Thanksgiving + counting down!
Besos, Besos ♡ Adriana

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