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Pumpkin Vanilla Custard

I call myself a runner. In fact, I’m going to run a 5k race this upcoming Sunday. Pretty impressive, huh?? More accurately, I will partially run, partially walk, and partially crawl a 5k on Sunday.

I am, in fact, a terrible runner. I can’t breathe. My muscles ache. I’m slower than a crippled snail. It’s not in my genes to be a runner. And yet I run. Diehard runners would probably call what I do “casual jogging”. But when I’ve got my running sneaks on, I feel like a runner. And so that is what I consider myself.

I started running sometime after having my second son. I was looking for a quick calorie burn to get rid of some of the extra weight I was hanging onto, without giving up my favorite foods. But what started as a means for losing the baby weight quickly became a treasured part of my day. The solitude. A chance to be alone inside my head for a few minutes. It made me feel strong and capable. It gave me peace and helped me recover a bit of the sanity that small children seem determined to abolish. And in that way, it made me a better, calmer mom.

I’d hoped to continue running throughout my third pregnancy, but fatigue and the waning evening light had other plans. Now, after months of not running (and some extra lingering baby weight), it’s been an uphill battle (both literally and figuratively) to regain my running ability.

This Sunday will be my first race since having my baby. I’m not ready. Not even a little bit. But I’m going to tie on some bells and run the jingle out of that Jingle Bell race.

I can run for 10 minutes (most of a mile) before I feel like I’m going to die. During the 5 minutes which follow, I start talking a variety of nonsense to myself. You’re a superstar. You’re strong. You can do anything! By the time I get to 15 minutes, I’m desperate and fully out of my mind. I’m screaming the lyrics to Pink’s Perfect in my pitchy off-key voice. They don’t like my jeans! They don’t get my hair! Which makes no sense since I almost exclusively wear sweatpants and keep my hair in an incredibly non-controversial pony tail. I’m quite a sight. Panting, crazy eyes, accusatory lyric shouting. Not exactly sure how I’m going to complete this race on Sunday… Ay! What was I thinking??

Run, Amy! Run!

The run will be good for me though, no matter how long it takes me, because I’ve been enjoying more pumpkin treats and apple pie (post coming soon) than any person should. Including this delectable pumpkin vanilla custard. It’s like a pumpkin pie without the crust. And it’s really good. Good enough to add a few more calorie-burning minutes to that run!

Pumpkin Vanilla Custard

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk*
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Pinch of ginger
  • 4 egg yolks
*Skim milk would work fine if you’d like to reduce the fat and calories.

Directions

Combine the milk, pumpkin puree, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and ginger in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking continuously so that the sugar and cornstarch dissolve. Once the mixture begins to bubble and thicken, reduce the heat. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks. Gradually whisk about 1/2 of the hot mixture into the egg yolks, starting with a slow drizzle. (Gradually incorporating the hot milk into the egg yolks tempers the eggs, allowing them to slowly rise in temperature without scrambling.) Gradually whisk the egg mixture into the remaining hot milk mixture in the pot. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, whisking constantly for about 3 minutes, until thickened and smooth. Pour the custard into individual serving dishes and refrigerate until set. Garnish with whipped cream and crushed vanilla wafers.

We all enjoy an occasional pat on the back for a job well done! And as a stay-at-home mom there are no pleased supervisors or satisfied co-workers passing out the pats..only little people who need more apple juice. Urgently. So, it was such a delight to be informed that The Gourmand Mom has been awarded the Editors’ Pick Best Food Blog award by the editors of Parents Magazine. What a fabulous recognition! Thank you, Parents Magazine!

You can check out the complete list of blog award winners here.

A Runner’s Victory Feast

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Yesterday morning, my sister and I ran our first 5k ever! We ran for a cause that is close to our hearts, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.  You see, 30 years and some months ago, when my mother was pregnant with my youngest sister, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  As a mother, I can not imagine the choices she was faced with. With two young daughters at home and a baby growing inside her, she was faced with risking her life to preserve the health of my unborn sister or choosing her own health, at a cost of my sister’s life. Against her doctor’s advice, she chose my sister’s life above her own. She is my hero. Her doctors treated the cancer as best as they could, with the baby’s life in mind. But, the cancer spread too rapidly.  My sister was born two months premature. Seven months later, my mother passed away. Today, my sister thrives, a testament to a mother’s love for a baby she hadn’t even met.

My family had other encounters with breast cancer after my mother’s passing. It touches so, so many lives. And so, yesterday morning, my sister and I tied on our running sneaks and hit the pavement. We ran in honor of those we’ve lost and in celebration of those who have survived. We ran for our aunts, and cousins, and sister, and friends. We ran for our lives.  We ran for the lives of our future daughters and granddaughters. We ran for everyone whose life has been touched by breast cancer.

A few months ago, it was a challenge for me to run half a mile. But, yesterday, fueled by the power of our cause, we were victorious. We certainly didn’t set any records for our lightening fast speed, but we ran that course with everything we had.

Today I offer you two of the recipes from yesterday’s victory feast.  Serve with a glass of your celebratory beverage of choice. Cheers to heroes and life!

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

My dad is a pizza traditionalist. In his opinion, the only things which belong on pizza are tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and the standard list of meat and veggie toppings. Sorry, Dad…I have to heartily disagree with you on this one. I actually went through a phase where I turned all my favorite meals into pizzas; think Steak Bordelaise, Shrimp Scampi, and Chicken Marsala in pizza form. I’ll save those recipes for another day though.  Today, we get our pizza and wings in the same bite! This recipe calls for hot sauce and bleu cheese dressing.  I strongly recommend Frank’s RedHot and Marie’s Super Bleu Cheese Dressing (It has 25% more bleu cheese, so you know it’s good!).  This is a very hearty pizza, so be sure to use a thick pizza crust!

Ingredients

  • 1-2 Chicken Breasts
  • 1/2 cup Celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 12″ Prepared Pizza Dough, thick crust
  • 3/4 cup Hot Sauce (Frank’s Red Hot)
  • 2/3 cup Bleu Cheese Dressing (Marie’s Super Bleu Cheese Dressing)
  • 1/4 cup Crumbled Bleu Cheese
  • 1 cup Shredded Mozzarella

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place chicken breasts on a baking sheet.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bake until chicken is cooked through, about 25-30 minutes. Once chicken is cool, cut or pull the chicken into small pieces. Toss chicken and celery in 1/2 cup of the Frank’s Redhot Sauce. In another bowl, combine bleu cheese dressing with 1/4 cup Frank’s Redhot Sauce (add more to make it extra spicy).  Spread sauce onto pizza dough. Top with chicken and celery mixture, discarding any excess hot sauce. Sprinkle with bleu cheese crumbles. Top with shredded mozzarella.  Bake in a 375 degrees oven for approximately 15 minutes until the pizza is hot and melty.  Allow to cool for a few minutes before cutting.

Steak Sandwiches with Sauteed Wild Mushrooms and Gruyere

Sauteed Wild Mushrooms

Typically, I make my steak sandwiches with caramelized onions and gorgonzola, but since we’ve already covered the pizza with bleu cheese, I decided to make a different steak sandwich variation, using sauteed wild mushrooms and gruyere. For this recipe, I use skirt steak, which is easily my favorite steak for sandwiches and quesadillas. Generally, skirt steak is known for being one of the toughest cuts of steak.  Color me crazy, but it always strikes me as being tender.  The key is to cook it quickly at high heat and slice it thinly against the grain. Prepared properly, skirt steak makes a great sandwich steak, because it comes apart easily when you bite into it, eliminating that awful steak sandwich situation.  You know…the situation when you bite into your sandwich, but can’t get through the steak and then a big slice of steak comes falling out and slaps you on the chin. (Does that happen to everyone or is it just me??)  Anyway, skirt steak is the way to go, but if you can’t find skirt steak, then flank steak makes a good substitution.

Ingredients

  • 1 Loaf of French Bread (preferably a batard, which is wider than a baguette)
  • 1 Skirt Steak (about 1/2 pound)
  • 2 cups Wild Mushrooms, sliced (cremini, shitake, oyster…)
  • 1 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 Tbsp Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 1 Tbsp Butter (optional, for sandwich)
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place skirt steak on a baking sheet.  Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.  Thinly slice the steak against the grain. **If preparing the sandwich immediately, turn heat down to 375 degrees after cooking the steak.

For the mushrooms, melt 1 Tbsp of butter in a sautee pan. Add mushrooms and cook over medium heat for few minutes.  The mushrooms will begin to release their liquids. Continue cooking and stirring until most of the liquid evaporates and the mushrooms turn a golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for another minute or two. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice batard in half lengthwise. Spread 1 Tbsp of butter onto the bottom piece.  Top with sliced steak and sauteed mushrooms. Cover with shredded cheeses.  Replace top half of bread.  Tightly wrap the sandwich in foil and bake for about 20 minutes, until heated through and cheeses are melted. Cut into 2-4 pieces.

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