Eggnog is the New Pumpkin

Last couple of months I noticed pumpkin flavored everything in the stores.  When I saw pumpkin moisturizing cream, it reminded me of the paper I’d written years ago on oat bran for my marketing class at university.  Back then oat bran was hailed as being fabulous for one’s health.  How it ended up in shampoo and everything else besides oatmeal, was the marketing geniuses at work.  Back to pumpkin; I did actually indulge in some pumpkin flavored items like instant oatmeal and pancake batter (the latter was so delicious) in October and November.  I also incorporated it into some of my cooking and baking.  Now it’s eggnog season, pumpkin is so last month, and I’m beginning to see some items like ice cream (one from Trader Joe’s is really, really good), gelato and cookies.  I’m wondering what else will be now eggnog “flavored”. Donuts?  Hair gel?  Deodorant?

Anyway, all my kids happen to love eggnog.  I buy it pre-made from a couple of stores/brands but it’s hard to get it without high fructose corn syrup and preservatives.  It’s also costly since I usually end up getting the organic one by default (sans other ingredients I’m avoiding). I’ve told the boys we’re going to make some, but I keep putting it off.

Well, my eldest son asked for French toast the other day, “made with eggnog”.  I used about 1/3 cup with one egg, sprinkle of cinnamon, dash of sugar and pinch of salt. Cooked on a lightly buttered saute pan over medium/medium-high heat until golden.  Topped it with some warm buttered maple syrup*.  He loved it and since there was a little mixture left, I had one too.  He had a great idea!  So, maybe eggnog won’t go the way of oat bran or even pumpkin, but we’ll be indulging in the next few weeks while it’s around.  Think I’ll try some in my baking. 

*Warm Buttered Maple Syrup:  I learnt this tip from the restaurant business.  Add a pat of butter to 1/2 cup of maple syrup (we only use the real stuff) and heat it in the microwave for 40 seconds until the butter melts. Stir and serve on pancakes, waffles, French toast, etc. 

Pancake with warm buttered maple syrup

Pancake with warm buttered maple syrup

(didn’t have a photo of the eggnog French Toast)


Perfect for Autumn

Made a new recipe for our cooking club yesterday.  It was the first time I’d been in a couple of months and I needed some time for just me.  I’ve been so incredibly busy with helping my husband open his restaurant (it opened one week ago today) —doing whatever I could to get it off the ground running in the right direction (helped with menu, made some desserts, created some cocktails).  I paid a sitter for several nights to go in and pick up the slack wherever it was needed (running food, bartending, waiting or bussing tables) to work for free.  Not that I can afford to, but I want to dedicate my experience for our long-term success.  Most restaurants are disorganized and discombobulated in the beginning and ours was packed from the moment it opened.

So… a friend gave me a gorgeously designed book as a restaurant opening gift (I think she designed the book) about decorating/gardening/entertaining for a particular season.  It has recipes interspersed and one caught my eye.  It was for curried pumpkin ravioli with an apple onion sauce.  Our cooking club theme this month was pumpkins and apples. How perfect, I thought. 

Well, I took it and modified it a bit.  First off, I used Butternut squash instead of pumpkin and I roasted mine whole (it keeps all the sweetness from running out) instead of canned pumpkin and I added some different spices, and substituted pecans for walnuts.  You will need time for this recipe but it pays off! I made a similar dish another fall.

Curried Butternut Squash Ravioli 
(adapted from a Pumpkin Ravioli recipe by Carolyne Roehm)

½ stick butter (divided)
1 lg shallot, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated
2 lg cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp curry powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cumin
⅛ tsp cayenne
½ tsp salt
pinch black pepper
1-2 butternut squash, cooked whole, peeled, seeded & pureed
12 oz ricotta cheese (whole milk)
1 pack of wonton wrappers

1 med onion, finely chopped
2 Macintosh apples, peeled, cored & cubed
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup pecans, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
¼ cup heavy cream

First cook the butternut squash on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350˚F for an hour or more (depends on size/thickness).  You can tell when it’s done when you stick a skewer through the densest part (near base of neck). Not a clear photo, but hopefully you get the gist.

(Didn’t use cloves in the end)

Next melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add shallots and sauté until soft.  Turn heat to medium and add ginger, garlic, spices and some salt.  Sauté another few minutes then add 3 cups of butternut squash.  Mix well and continue to cook for a few minutes.  Remove and cool.  Add the ricotta cheese and cool for at least half an hour.

Before adding ricotta

Using parchment paper on a cookie sheet lay out some wonton wrappers.  Take a teaspoon and drop a dollop of filling in center.  Wet edges of wrapper with water and your finger.  Place another wonton wrapper on top and press around the edges to seal.  Pick up the ravioli with an open seam at top then carefully burp the air out (so that it won’t open when brought up to temp).  Press sealed edges with a fork if you wish.  Repeat. Once the first set of ravioli has filled the sheet, place another piece of parchment on top and continue until you’ve run out of wrappers or filling. Cover with a slightly damp piece of paper towel.

Start the sauce by cooking onions in a sauté pan with a couple of tablespoons of melted butter (and I use a touch of grapeseed or sunflower seed oil) until translucent then add apples and wine.  Simmer for a couple of minutes then add the chicken stock and pecans.  Cook until apples are soft then set aside while you cook the ravioli.

Bring large pot of water to rolling boil.  Carefully place a few ravioli in at a time.  While a batch is cooking bring sauce back up to heat (medium-high) add cream and simmer for a minute.  Ravioli take about 3 minutes to cook (translucent and floating).  Scoop ravioli out with slotted spoon or mesh spyder, draining well. 

Top with sauce and serve immediately. 

It was so delicious and worth the effort.  But unfortunately only one of my children will eat it!  Maybe you’ll have better luck… actually today I’m going to try with a different sauce with some leftover uncooked ones.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting

This time of year pumpkins and winter squash are in season and there are so many wonderful ways to use them.  I made a few great dishes lately: butternut squash soups, ravioli, triple layer pumpkin pie, roasted squash.

One quick treat I make is pumpkin muffins with the Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bread mix.  They’re quick and easy to make and all the kids love them.  I had an event to go to so I got an idea to jazz them up a bit by making a frosting and turning them into cupcakes.  I adapted a recipe I found for cream cheese frosting.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting

1 brick cream cheese (cold)

1 stick unsalted butter (room temp)

¾ cup confectioners’ sugar

2 Tbsp pumpkin

1 tsp vanilla

¼ tsp cinnamon

⅛ tsp ground ginger

In food processor blend the cream cheese and butter.  Add the confectioners’ sugar and blend until smooth.  Add rest ingredients until well mixed.  Frost cupcakes/muffins when well cooled.

They were delicious!  Great easy treat and most kids liked them.