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Pumpkin Pancakes with Butter Pecan Syrup

After an extended period of unusually warm temperatures, autumn has taken its inevitable hold on our weather. There’s a definite chill in the air, which requires down jackets, more so than fleecy hoodies. As usual, the kids will trick-or-treat with winter coats stuffed under their costumes this year. It won’t be long before we see our first snow.

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Despite the chilly temps, this weekend was positively beautiful. The leaves are at their peak of vibrant color and the grass is still (mostly) green. And on this gorgeous weekend, I celebrated my birthday. We began our festivities on Saturday morning with these pumpkin pancakes, drizzled in warm butter pecan syrup. Then, we ended the weekend with a full turkey dinner at a crowded table of family and friends. I gave thanks a month early, for another year of good food, good family, and good friends.

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Warm butter pecan syrup seemed like the ideal accompaniment for these seasonally perfect pumpkin pancakes. My love for butter pecan syrup is so intense, that I have made trips to IHOP for the sole reason of dipping stuff in their famous syrup. A quick search for ‘copycat’ recipes for my fave IHOP syrup revealed numerous blends of sugar with water and a variety of artificial extracts. My version takes a more natural approach, using pure maple syrup, melted butter, and non-imitation vanilla extract. Toasting chopped pecans in a bit of butter brings out the buttery-nutty flavor in this crave-worthy pancake topper.

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Pumpkin Pancakes

Slightly modified from Martha Stewart’s Pumpkin Pancakes

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree, fresh or canned
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 eggs

Directions

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, nutmeg, and cloves in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, pumpkin puree, melted butter, and eggs. Gradually pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, whisking until well blended. Melt a little butter in a skillet over medium heat. Pour about 1/3 cup batter for each pancake. Cook pancakes approximately 3 minutes per side.

Makes about 12-15 pancakes

Butter Pecan Syrup

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups real maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a saucepan, over medium heat. Add the chopped pecans. Cook for about 3 minutes, until fragrant. Add the maple syrup, butter, and vanilla extract. Continue to heat over medium-low/medium heat until the butter has melted and blended with the syrup. Season with a pinch of salt. Serve warm.

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Chickpea Fries with Green Athena Sauce

Many years ago, I made a friend for life during my college orientation weekend. I don’t recall how we first met. We may have been seated next to each other during some presentation to incoming freshmen. However it happened, it was kismet, as they say. We became instant friends that weekend, as we explored our new school and the town which would be our home for the next four years.

We spent the rest of the summer sending handwritten letters to each other. Yes, this was before the time of facebook, widespread email, and texting. Freshman year we grew closer. And as roommates during our sophomore year, we were practically inseparable. In fact, the vast majority of my college memories in some way involve this particular friend; memories involving mermaids (and mermen), dance routines with a big finish, a glowing Red Dog clock, flooded suites, and self-directed midnight evacuation drills from our second floor dorm building. Note to self: Scaling the side of a brick building with your sheets tied together will result in holey sheets. And laughter. Lots of laughter.

College Memories

In the years after college, we moved in different directions, geographically. Separated by distance, our opportunities to share drinks, laughter, and miscellaneous mischief have become fewer and farther between. But we will always share a part in each other’s celebrations, successes, and challenges. She stood as my bridesmaid during my wedding and wore a pin I gave her in her hair as she celebrated her own. Though we now live, quite literally, on opposite sides of the globe, my dear friend will always remain close in my heart. I feel fortunate that our lives crossed paths.

Recently, my globe-trotting pal sent me a link to a Mark Bittman article, which describes a process for making a sort of chickpea fries; crisp on the outside with a smooth, custardy center. Yum! Only, the article is a bit vague on the exact procedure. My friend’s first attempt never made it to the taste-testing phase. Dying to love these little goodies, she sent a plea for help. I told you we’d always be there for each other’s challenges!

Vegetarians and gluten-free eaters rejoice! This recipe is right up your alley. In fact, this protein-rich alternative to French fries should make just about everyone happy! I based my recipe on Bittman’s description and a bit of trial and error. Your biggest challenge may be getting your hands on the chickpea flour necessary for this recipe. But if you’ve got a well-stocked grocery store nearby, you may be in luck. I was able to find the flour in the organic and natural foods section of my Wegmans. If you don’t see it in your grocery store, try asking at the customer service desk.

The sauce is a cross between a cucumber-yogurt tzatziki and a green goddess dressing, so I’m calling it my Green Athena Sauce. It’s works perfectly with these tasty chickpea fries and will probably leave you looking for other things to dip in it. Try pita, fresh vegetables, chips, bread, skewered lamb…

Chickpea Fries

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/8 cups chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (plus more, if desired)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper (plus more, if desired)
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Directions

Line a 13×9 inch baking dish or baking sheet with parchment paper or wax paper. Lightly rub the paper with vegetable oil to help prevent sticking. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium and gradually whisk in the chickpea flour. The mixture will thicken quickly. Add the other ingredients. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add additional water if the mixtures seems too dry or additional flour if the mixture seems too runny. Spread the mixture into the prepared baking dish or baking sheet. Use a piece of wax paper to help press the mixture into an even layer. Cover with the wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Once cool, cut the mixture into the shape of fries or any other shape you desire.Heat a shallow (less than 1/4″) layer of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-medium high heat. Place the fries into the hot oil. Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel to remove excess oil. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Green Athena Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cucumber, peeled and grated
  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Bg handful of fresh parsley
  • Pepper, to taste
Directions
Squeeze the grated cucumber in your hands or in a piece of cheesecloth to remove as much liquid as you can. (Skipping this step will result in an overly runny sauce.) Combine the cucumber with all other ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until well combined. Add as much parsley as you desire, until the sauce has a nice green color. Taste and adjust seasoning, to taste. Refrigerate until serving.

Irresistible Spinach Dip and (Possibly) Pasta Chips

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My little brother was in town this weekend! He’s the only one of my siblings who doesn’t live nearby and we miss him terribly. It’s always a good time when he drives up for a visit. And it’s always a good excuse for a soiree of sorts. So, yesterday, some family and friends gathered at my house for some good food and great company. There’s nothing better than being with a group of people, who can have a blast just sitting around a room, after a filling meal, telling stories and laughing together. Excellent people.

There are a handful of recipes I make over and over again when I entertain; the items that people have come to expect when they visit. One of those things is spinach dip, typically served in a hollowed-out bread bowl with chunks of bread scattered all around for dipping. People frequently comment on how much they love my spinach dip, but I can’t really call it mine at all. The recipe is printed on the back of every packet of Knorr Vegetable Soup Mix. My mom used to make it for parties when I was a kid. At that time, it was her recipe. I make it now and it’s mine. You can make it tomorrow, and call it yours. But the true credit goes to Knorr.

Every single time I’ve ever made this dip, I’ve served it in a bread bowl (usually pumpernickel) with doughy chunks of sourdough and pumpernickel all around. Except yesterday, when I didn’t serve it with bread at all. I was inspired to try something new after a recent night out with my sister and a friend. We’d eaten at a restaurant which has several dishes on their menu featuring something called pasta chips. I’d had pasta chip nachos on a previous visit. And last week, we ordered a spinach and artichoke dip that was served with these crispy pasta chips. Following the initial nacho experience, my sister and I pondered how the pasta chips were made. When we had them again last week, an idea occurred to me. Perhaps they were made with wonton wrappers, like the wonton wrappers I used in the Shrimp and Sweet Corn Ravioli. I decided I’d give it a try.

Well, after frying up a batch, I can’t say for certain that the restaurant uses wonton wrappers for their pasta chips. The end result was quite similar, but not quite their pasta chips. But you’ll never guess what they did turn out to be. Drum roll please…. Fried Wonton Chips! And they are good; addictively good. So, I fried the whole batch and served my Wonton/Pasta Chips with the dip.

My Spinach Dip Recipe

(I mean Knorr’s Spinach Dip Recipe.)

Ingredients

  • 1 10-ounce package Frozen Chopped Spinach
  • 1 packet Knorr Vegetable Soup Mix
  • 1 16-ounce container sour cream
  • 1/2 cup Mayonnaise*
  • 1 can Water Chestnuts, drained and chopped
  • 1 bunch of Green Onions, sliced*

*The original Knorr’s recipe calls for 1 cup of Mayonnaise and 3 green onions.

Directions

Defrost the spinach and squeeze dry. (This would be a good time to use a piece of cheesecloth, but your hands will suffice.) Combine the spinach with the other ingredients. Mix to combine and refrigerate. The dip is best after it’s been refrigerated for a few hours. Serve with bread or chips.

Fried Wonton Pasta Chips

Ingredients

  • 1 package Wonton Wrappers
  • Oil (Use a neutral flavored oil, such as canola.)

Directions

Use a knife or pizza cutter to cut the wonton wrappers, if desired. Pour about 1/4 inch oil into a pan. Heat over medium/medium-high until it’s good and hot. In small batches of about 5-6, place the wonton wrappers in the oil in a single layer. They will begin to cook quickly. Use tongs to flip the wrappers after a few seconds, when they begin to look a light toasty brown. Cook a few more seconds on the other side. Then, use your tongs to remove the fried wontons and place them on a paper towel to drain. Repeat for all wonton wrappers, stacking layers of paper towels, as necessary.

Great visit with my brother, friends, and family. I took full advantage of my group of eager taste-testers to work on a burger recipe I’m planning to submit for a contest. Torrential rain foiled my initial grill plans, but we worked it out inside. Thank you cast-iron grill pan.

Enjoyed a bit of cool, crisp Riesling, my favorite summer wine.

There were warm Cheddar and Garlic Biscuits. Click here for the biscuit recipe.

Cheddar and Garlic Biscuits

I made one more really yummy dish, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for that one.

Trust me, it’s worth the wait!

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