More Pumpkin

Even though pumpkin beer has made its way off the shelves already this season, I refuse to accept that pumpkin season is over. So, I’ve continued to scour the internet for anything and everything pumpkin. This particular recipe comes from HangryPants, by way of And Her Little Dog Too. I know that Heather over at HangryPants loves pumpkin just as much as my fiancé and I do based on the number of recipes she’s posted in the past few months, but I didn’t actually come across this particular one until Leslie of And Her Little Dog Too made it and posted about it. As soon as I saw it, per the usual I fired it off via e-mail (I love the e-mail feature in Google Reader) to my fiancé and he responded with the typical “MAKE.”

After last week’s meat fest, it felt good to stick to non-meat meals for this week. Since we really haven’t been eating much meat these days, last week was like an overload for me. I’m certainly not complaining since I made up the week’s menu and everything was delicious, but it’s amazing how different you feel when you include or exclude things in your diet. That’s neither here nor there, though!

Since it was a pasta dish, it was a perfect dose of carbs for Thursday morning’s pre-work 6 miler. When my alarm goes off at 5:30am I really question my sanity. I question it even more when my head starts to bobble at my desk around 2pm. I decided to start Thursday off post-run with a Green Monster, which I haven’t had in quite awhile. I think I need to get myself some fresh spinach though, because the frozen stuff doesn’t really break down that well. I tried to make a pumpkin pie version with the leftover canned pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, plain Greek yogurt, and a splash of Almond Breeze (full-on vanilla flavor, of course). It wasn’t bad! I need to stock up on the more typical Green Monster ingredients though so I can experiment.

But yes, the pumpkin penne. YUM. I don’t have garlic gold (sounds fancy, though) so I stuck with regular garlic powder, and I didn’t know what I was missing. It was super creamy which was awesome, and there was a bit of a pumpkin pie flavor, unlike the pumpkin mac ‘n cheese I made a few weeks ago. My fiancé and I did make the mistake of putting two drops of MadDog 375 sauce, which is one of the hot sauces we got last week, on our plates. This sauce is 600,000 Scoville units. A jalapeño is 2,500 – 8,000. So yes, this was A LOT of burn. They aren’t kidding when they tell you to only use a drop in an entire meal, or to water it down. My entire mouth and lips were burning in a way that I could only imagine the next closest thing would be to light them on fire. I doused my lips and mouth in milk for a solid 5 minutes, and had to dump out what was on plate and get a new serving. I learned my lesson, I promise.

So before all the pure pumpkin disappears from the shelves at the grocery store, make this!

Pumpkin Penne
– Serves 4 –

1/2 box whole wheat pasta (*save 1/4 cup of pasta water)
2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 can pure pumpkin
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Prepare pasta according to directions, slightly undercooking (it will finish cooking once all mixed)
3. At the same time, sauté chopped onion in olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes.
4. Combine mozzarella, pumpkin, ricotta, followed by spices in a large bowl.
5. Add sauteed onions to cheese mixture and 1/4 cup water from the pasta to thicken, then add pasta.
6. Spread pasta mixture in a greased casserole dish, and top with bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Homemade Sriracha

I think after Sunday’s hot pepper excursion, I realized my fiancé and I have a problem: we’re obsessed with anything and everything spicy… extremely spicy.

A mutual friend of ours sent us a link to this homemade Sriracha (rooster) sauce, knowing how much we like the hot sauce store-bought Sriracha, and anything super spicy for that matter. In order to make this recipe, we needed palm sugar, which we of course didn’t have, or know where to get. So, we took a trip to one of the local Asian markets, where I was in heaven. They have everything; Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Indonesian, the list goes on. Granted I had to try and find any English whatsoever on most of the packages, we did manage to find palm sugar. We also grabbed chili paste, dried red chiles, garam masala (so I can make this again), and cumin. I had to use a lot of self restraint to get out of there with just that – but I’ll definitely be back!

Even though we had success with the sugar, we of course had to fail somewhere in the recipe, otherwise it just wouldn’t have been a Danielle experience. So, when we got to Wegmans, we didn’t find any red Fresno chiles. Instead, we decided to use jalapenos, dried red chiles, and a habanero to try and combine the same amount of heat. So, instead of red Sriracha, it’s an orange green-ish color (you know, like baby food). But it isn’t always about looks; taste is what counts.

Once all of the peppers and the garlic was chopped, and the vinegar and salt was added, we waited. We didn’t realize it at the time, but it needed to sit overnight. We were a bit disappointed, but figured it’d be for the best in the end. So, after making it on Sunday night and letting it sit, after work on Monday we threw everything in the blender (man I wish we had a food processor), and combined it with the remaining ingredients.

It honestly doesn’t taste anything like Sriracha, and I don’t think we have anyone to blame but the peppers. Yes, that’s right, I’m blaming the Fresno peppers themselves for not existing at the Wegmans in Woodbridge, New Jersey. However, we succeeded in making what I’d like to call a Mexican Sriracha sauce. The jalapeno and habanero give it a distinctive Mexican/Spanish flavor, in a deliciously awesome way. So even though it isn’t exactly a replica of store bought Sriracha, it’s a new way we can torture and simultaneously please our taste buds. Now we have another hot sauce to add to our ever growing arsenal, that I plan on smothering my meals with until it’s all gone!

Fresh Sriracha
– Serves 1 1/2 cups –

1/2 pound red fresno chiles, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons palm sugar

1. Place all the ingredients except the sugar in a jar and let sit overnight to mellow the heat of the peppers. I guess one could consider this a brine.
2. Place the mixture and sugar in small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
3. Transfer to a blender and puree for about 5 minutes, until a smooth, orange-red mixture forms. Run through a strainer and smush out as much juice as possible.
Once refrigerated, the sauce should have the same consistency and texture as the ‘Rooster’, but less salty and a whole lot fresher tasting!

*adapted from edamame2003 on Food52.