Monday, September 13, 2010
I realize that my bold confession has caused a general murmer of disbelief, but with fall upon us I felt compelled to let the cat out of the bag about my true feelings on holiday pies. It’s not that I hate pumpkin pie, I’m just not a huge fan of the consistency and firmly believe that you must be in the right mood for a pie made out of an oversized squash. As for pecan, I tolerated it for my grandma’s sake - as she was the family proclaimed “best pecan pie maker” - but you all have to admit the consistency is (once again) just weird. Don’t get me started on meringues.
I’ve probably just alienated half of you and engaged in some kind of Thanksgiving sacrilege, but I’m fairly certain I’m not the only one out there who feels this way. So, on behalf of pumpkin pie UNenthusiasts everywhere, and in honor of my birthday last week, I set out to find a better pumpkin dessert. And that was the basis for my fall feast.
Once I decided on pumpkin, I knew I’d have to go with an entire fall theme. Then, I had the absolute most delicious ravioli at a local Italian bistro when mr and I went out for my birthday that I knew I’d have to try and replicate it. Our fall themed menu was: Garlic Chicken breasts served with Butternut Squash Ravioli (found on food.com) with a Cranberry and Walnut Sweet Cream Sauce (new invention) and Green Beans with pizazz (found on Less Cake, More Frosting). And for dessert, drumroll please, I tried out Pumpkin Crumble Cake (found on Mom!Mom!.com).
My first mistake was to make homemade ravioli pasta. It isn’t all that easy to get the noodles nice and flat. I borrowed my mom’s food processor and made the dough and filling exactly as instructed on food.com. Of course, somehow during the frenzy of cooking with every burner, the ravioli got turned off at least 8 minutes too soon. Thank goodness mom realized. I thought the noodles themselves (although time-consuming to make) were fine - a little bland maybe. The filling wasn’t very flavorful - I think mostly because butternut squash isn’t really in season yet. My bad. Anyway, it wasn’t awesome, but it wasn’t horrible. I think I could make it better with a few adjustments, and if I try it again the first one would be to use wonton wrappers instead.
Here’s how I cooked the chicken breasts, which went really well with the sweet sauce.
Garlic Chicken Breasts
1 tblsp Olive Oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 chicken breasts cut into strips
1 tsp all spice
2 tsp garlic salt
Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium to high heat. Throw in the minced garlic and sauté for a bit. Throw in the cut up chicken. Sprinkle the all spice and the garlic all over and stir the chicken around in the spices. Cook until the chicken is done all the way through, turning the pieces at least once, about 15-20 minutes.
It turned out really tender and the spices were nice - it was a good alternative to just the olive oil, which is what I normally do. mr was a big fan of the chicken.
mom raved about the sauce. I got some ideas for the sauce online, but it was mostly just an experiment.
Cranberry and Walnut Sweet Cream Sauce
2 Tblsp brown sugar
2 Tblsp cornstarch
3 C apple cider
2 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 C heavy cream
a handful of craisins
a handful of walnuts
Measure the brown sugar and cornstarch into a medium saucepan and stir well. Cook for a few minutes, and add the apple cider. Stir in the thyme and nutmeg. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the apple cider is reduced by about 1/2. Add the cream and bring it to a boil. Cook for about 4 more minutes, stirring constantly. Turn the heat down, add the craisins and the walnuts and cook for about 4 more minutes, stirring frequently.
The next time I make it, I think I will add a bit more cream and cook the apple cider mixture a little longer in the beginning. 15 minutes would have been more appropriate and maybe 1 and 1/2 cups of cream, or even 2. It does have a strong sweet and spiced flavor, and everyone liked it.
I made the beans by following Ellie G’s directions on less cake, more frosting EXACTLY. All I can say is, I like beans now. I will make these again, cooking them less so they are crispy next time. (If they were overcooked and still good, you know they’re worth a try!)
Now, here is the moment all of you pumpkin lovers have been waiting for. The Pumpkin Crumble Cake. I changed it just a bit (intentionally and unintentionally!) from the recipe online, so here’s the scoop: I call it
Pumpkin Pie in a Cake
Grease a 13x9 pan.
Preheat your oven to 350.
1 box of yellow cake mix
1 stick of butter, room temperature
Set aside 1 Cup of yellow cake mix for use later. Beat the rest of the cake mix, the butter and egg in a medium mixing bowl. When well combined, press the batter into the prepared pan for a “crust”.
1 30 oz. can of pumpkin pie filling *
1 15 oz. can of evaporated milk **
1 C. sugar
1 tsp cinnamon ***
Beat the above ingredients together until the mixture lightens in color and texture. Pour this into the pan on top of the crust. ****
1/4 C sugar
1/2 stick chilled butter
1 C reserved cake mix
1 C chopped pecans
Beat everything except the pecans in a medium bowl. When it is combined and crumbly, add in the pecans and mix with a spoon. Spread this evenly over the filling.
Bake this in the oven for 75 minutes or so. The cake should look very moist, but shouldn’t “jiggle” when it’s moved. Let the cake cool. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
* (ok, the recipe calls for 2 15 oz cans of pumpkin. Do you know how hard it is to find cans of pumpkins around here?? Apparently, there was a pumpkin shortage last year so now no one will get any cans in until early November. Is this a country wide thing??? So I went with pie filling my mom had on hand.)
** (so.... the recipe called for 1 5 oz can. This was a serious case of NOT READING DIRECTIONS THOROUGHLY ENOUGH. Whoops)
*** (recipe wanted 2 tsp, but that was without the pit filling. I halved it so it wouldn’t be overpowering.)
**** (um, yeah, this was the point when my mom and I started to worry. Why does this look so runny? Why isn’t it a spreadable batter? Why is it a soup? And this prompted me to look into the measurement for the evaporated milk, which is when we discovered MY mistake. yeesh. I won’t tell you we weren’t scared. I thought I might be writing a recipe for some kind of weird “Creamy, Nutty, Pumpkin Drizzle Ice Cream Topping” or something. So, I was pretty AMAZED and relieved when it turned out.)
So, as you can see from the footnotes, we ran into some snags. It looks a lot more complicated to make than it actually was, and imagine my surprise when I bit into the cake and immediately swooned. Pumpkin Pie, you have successfully been replaced. You’ve met your match. You’re old hat. You’re FIRED.
That’s right. I just demoted pumpkin pie. You will too if you make Pumpkin Pie in a Cake.
I think I just found yet another reason to be happy Fall has arrived. Thanks, Pumpkin Cake. I owe you.