Tag Archives: thanksgiving

Weekly Menus: Casserole Edition, Week of 11/3/2014

Gentle Readers, another week flies past, and it’s ever closer to one of my very favorite holidays, Thanksgiving. Bring on the yams and stuffing/dressing/cornbread pudding. Truth be told, I have rarely met a casserole I wouldn’t eat. Not all of them are works of brilliance, but when you add a can (or box) of condensed soup to something, I’ll likely consume it. I’m not proud, I’m Southern, and that’s just how it is.

Mexican Squash Casserole

Mexican Squash Casserole

But I digress. I’m in a health challenge with a friend in preparation for the season of cookie eating (to quote her, we need to be at top form so we can bathe in mashed potatoes in the holiday season with a complete lack of guilt), so my casseroles are going to have to be contained to sides and veggies right now. I look forward to more entree development as the season progresses.

Yes, that is squash casserole on top.

Yes, that is squash casserole on top.

So here the list of weekly menus:

Weekly Menus: 11/3/2013

Weekly Menus: 11/3/2013

And the Four-Square Grocery List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 11/3/2013

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 11/3/2013

Which all means:

Sunday: Salad Delite
Spelling intentional. I wish to hearken the days of cottage cheese consumption during the 1970s. That’s how I feel rolling into my yearly cholesterol check for work. This will be an everything in the fridge salad, and I actually look forward to it. (I may avail myself of the Whole Foods salad bar, which means adding squash casserole on the top–yum.)

Shredded beets and two cubes of tofu, yes please. Whole Foods Salad.

Shredded beets and two cubes of tofu, yes please. Whole Foods Salad.

Monday: Tuna Melts
We delayed eating these as we ran short on time before Halloween (the answer was veggie corn dogs, cut up in small bites so as not to muss our makeup).

We use the force . . . of the microwave for a quick meal before Trick or Treating.

We use the force . . . of the microwave for a quick meal before Trick or Treating.

Tuesday: Chicken Marsala
It’s a good week to make a simple but fancy dish. Goes great with rice or mashed potatoes and, wait for it, green been casserole. If you’ve not tried the condensed portabella mushroom soup from Trader Joe’s, along with their fried onions, now is that time.

Trader Joe's Portabella Mushroom Soup

Trader Joe’s Portabella Mushroom Soup

Wednesday: Pasta with Broccoli
Perhaps with the addition of veggie Italian Sausage? I’ve been pondering a hearty pasta meal and haven’t decided on my favorite combo yet.

Thursday: Beans and Rice (or Spinach Quesadillas)
We are always worn down by Thursday, so simple and hearty is the call of the day.

Friday: Meatloaf and Mashed Squash
We have some delicata squash calling our collective names. I could turn it into a casserole with a few dried cranberries and a crushed walnut topping. I do love this season.

Pumpkin Pie Spiced Delicata Squash Ater Being Attacked by Wild Dogs, or Rather, The Juniors

Pumpkin Pie Spiced Delicata Squash Ater Being Attacked by Wild Dogs, or Rather, The Juniors

Saturday: Dine Out!
We have a date with one of our favorite local chefs and her Wii. It’s been too long.

Snack of the Week: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds!

Snack of the Week: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds!

I would love to hear your favorite casserole combos. Shoot me a Tweet or post a comment below. It’s wide open and ready for your call.

Send your condensed soups, fried onions, and 1950s recipes to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

Coming up Sunday–Weekly Menus with Tapas Bonus Recipes!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Weekly Menus

More Pumpkin in Review: The Pies Have It!

Gentle Readers, it is with great relief that I’m winding up this personal pumpkin challenge. To be frank, I almost wept openly in Trader Joe’s when I saw the number of pumpkin items yet untried, mainly in the frozen dessert aisle.

The cutest pumpkins ever. Clementines with an apple stem. One more pumpkin and I'll scream like those bananas though.

The cutest pumpkins ever. Clementines with an apple stem. One more pumpkin and I’ll scream like those bananas though.

But enough is enough–why do I need to buy pumpkin bread pudding when I’m more than capable of making my own? In spite of the toll my real life schedule takes on my cooking time (and my blogging time for that matter), every day that I cook something from scratch, or simply feed myself and TPCs Jr, feels like a victory.

Almost from scratch pumpkin pie. Hold the Cool Whip please.

Almost from scratch pumpkin pie. Hold the Cool Whip please.

So making a pumpkin pie from “scratch” (air quotes to honor the Trader Joe’s frozen pie crust deployed into this fight) seems worthy of a ticker tape celebration. I even served it with Pumpkin Ravioli. Thus the pumpkin tales end where they began.

Three More Favorite Pumpkin Things:

1. Pumpkin Ravioli. These are actually good, though the batch we had was less than smooth in the filling of a few of them. Serve with a simple brown butter and sage sauce–melt butter, fry sage, toss with cooked pasta, call it gourmet. This is a family favorite, worthy of serving special guests.

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage--Nom!

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage–Nom!

2. Pumpkin Pancakes. Still the house favorite, using the Pumpkin Pancake and Waffle mix as a starter, we often add ground flaxseed, applesauce, almond meal, and/or chopped walnuts. It’s very flexible, have at it. On rare occasions, we add chocolate chips. I still don’t like them in my pancakes, judge me if you will.

World's Largest Pumpkin Pancake. I totally flipped it midair, no spatula. #win

World’s Largest Pumpkin Pancake. I totally flipped it midair, no spatula. #win

3. Pumpkin Pie. I made the recipe from the back of the Libby’s pumpkin can, a time-honored approach. I swapped in the Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice, which I adore, and used the aforementioned frozen crust, also from TJ’s. I know it’s got no trans fats in it, but I found it a bit doughy and brittle, and that’s not just operator error. It’s crust in the end, so it’s still good, but apparently I like a little more trans fat in my pie crusts.

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice: With Cardamom and Lemon Peel, I Love This Stuff

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice: With Cardamom and Lemon Peel, I Love This Stuff

Honorable Mentions:

  • Pumpkin Toaster Pastries. Not my favorite, but TPCs Jr gave these a thumbs up as a seasonal travel food.
  • Pumpkin Bars. Not a bad entry, bordering on the dessert category.
  • Pumpkin Biscotti. These were also not bad, but having made my own, I’m now permanently spoiled.
  • Pumpkin Blondies. Okay, but I didn’t really see the point here.
  • Pumpkin Loaf Bread Mix. Again, a pretty strong contender, but quick breads aren’t hard to make from scratch, and you have more control over the flavor profile. Secretly, I still greatly prefer Starbucks Pumpkin Bread. It’s the seeds I tell you!
  • Pumpkin Butter. A nice side with apples or the Trader Joe’s Triple Gingersnaps.
So much pumpkin at Trader Joe's: butter and mix and decorative gourds oh my!

So much pumpkin at Trader Joe’s: butter and mix and decorative gourds oh my!

And thus ends my pumpkin journey. I’m now heading into Thanksgiving season with a healthy portion of condensed soups and fried onions from my favorite alternative grocery store. It’s casserole and stuffing season, and I’ll pay allegiance to other winter squashes henceforth. Acorn and Delicata, I’ve missed you.

What’s your favorite of the pumpkin products? Send a Tweet or comment below! The pumpkin polls are open!

Until next year, leaving the largess of pumpkin behind. TPCs Jr celebrate the overlarge veggies at N.C. State Fair!

Until next year, leaving the largess of pumpkin behind. TPCs Jr celebrate the overlarge veggies at N.C. State Fair!

Send your Cool Whip, maple syrup, and spooky thoughts to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

Next up on Sunday, Weekly Menus: Casserole Edition!

Leave a comment

Filed under One Ingredient Three Ways, Recipes

Pumpkin Pumpkin Everywhere, Not a Drop to Drink: Round 1

Gentle Readers, it seemed like such a simple mission at the start, trying all of the pumpkin things at Trader Joe’s. I gleefully tossed them in my cart with the joy of a completist blog in my future. It looked like this:

Back when I thought it was all about the Pumpkin Pancakes and a fun challenge. Trader Joe's Round 1.

Back when I thought it was all about the Pumpkin Pancakes and a fun challenge. Trader Joe’s Round 1.

Then I went back to the store the next week. And the pumpkin offerings expanded. Now my cart looked like this:

Pumpkin soup, oatmeal, ravioli--wait, how did the Joe Joe's get in there.

Pumpkin soup, oatmeal, ravioli–wait, how did the Joe Joe’s get in there.

Is it possible to suffer from Vitamin A poisoning? Or is this a Michael Pollan level conspiracy, as wonderfully outlined in The Pumpkin Industrial Complex? I’ll wait for you to stop laughing.

Welcome to the N.C. State Fair Memory Lane, Large Pumpkin Edition

Welcome to the N.C. State Fair Memory Lane, Large Pumpkin Edition

So rather than everything, I’m going to start by reviewing a few of my favorite things.

3 Practical Pumpkin Things

1. Pumpkin Granola. I love this cereal. I would eat it regardless of season or the PIC (Pumpkin Industrial Complex). Crunchy, spicy, with a little bit of raisin sass, this is two spoons up.

Pumpkin granola cereal from Trader Joe's, in aggregate.

Pumpkin granola cereal from Trader Joe’s, in aggregate.

2. Pumpkin-Cranberry Scones. Of the mixes I’ve tried, this is one of my favorites. They are simple to make, with a pretty good texture, and a nice pumpkin-ness to them. The cranberries make a lovely addition as well.

Nice texture and warmth, this scone mix is pretty easy to work with.

Nice texture and warmth, this pumpkin scone mix is pretty easy to work with.

3. Pumpkin Crisps. If you’re a fan of the rosemary crisps, this is a run don’t walk situation. Fabulous with a touch of goat cheese or a schmear of pumpkin butter, these I would eat until I foundered. Not your mama’s cracker.

Pumpkin crisps atop, wait for it, pumpkin soup from Trader Joe's. TPC's Jr are pretty much over it.

Pumpkin crisps atop, wait for it, pumpkin soup from Trader Joe’s. TPC’s Jr are pretty much over it.

That’s it for round 1. I’ve got lots more to review, and will even reveal some of my less favorite options. But I will need help from you loyal readers. If you’d like to guest blog, email me. If you’d like to just drop a quick one-line review in the comments, go for it. If you want to get into a pumpkin pie eating contest, I’ll take you on there as well.

Adapatable Pumpkin Pancakes Stack, Birthday Style.

Adapatable Pumpkin Pancakes Stack, Birthday Style.

Send your non-pumpkin items, good ideas, and mind-blowing suggestions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

Next up on Sunday, Weekly Menus: State Fair Edition

5 Comments

Filed under One Ingredient Three Ways, Snacks

Adaptable Pumpkin Pancake Recipe (Halloween Is Everyday)

Gentle Readers, seasonal eating is great, but rulebreaking also tastes delicious. Why store food or have pantry-safe items if not to violate the rules of the season? Enter Pumpkin Pancakes. Having developed a serious taste for the Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pancake mix, and lacking any spare boxes, it was time to take action.

Adaptable Pumpkin Pancakes with a side of bacon and walnuts. Winning!

Adaptable Pumpkin Pancakes with a side of bacon and walnuts. Winning!

For those out there who are Halloween fanatics, rolling in pumpkin lattes and beers, this post is for you. Usually, I would tell you to avert your eyes, because I will not touch either of those beverages. Pumpkin, in my humble opinion, belongs in pies, custards, and pancakes. Especially pancakes.

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pancake and Waffle Mix is both festive and mildly generic looking.

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pancake and Waffle Mix is both festive and mildly generic looking.

I don’t drink pumpkin, as delightful as Harry Potter makes it seem. Maybe I’m Vitamin A deficient this week, but wow, these rocked. I ate the leftovers cold.

Adaptable Pumpkin Pancake Recipe

For the sake of testing, I used Trader Joe’s Pancake and Waffle Mix. Any pancake mix should work, or make your own and adapt from there.

Use the pumpkin puree, get orange pancakes!

Use the pumpkin puree, get orange pancakes!

To pumpkinize, make 12- 14 pancakes according to recipe (using about 2 cups of the pancake mix), adding 1/2 can pumpkin puree (NOT PUMPKIN PIE FILLING, the plain stuff), 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (assuming  a plain mix), and 2 Tablespoons sugar (I used vanilla sugar, because I can). You can omit oil in the recipe if you’d like, but I added a smidge for texture.

Vanilla Bean Buried in a Jar of Sugar, Voila, Vanilla Sugar

Vanilla Bean Buried in a Jar of Sugar, Voila, Vanilla Sugar

For those of you that insist on chocolate chips, you can add a handful of those too. I do not care for them in my pancakes.

The pumpkin pancake batter will be thick--you can thin with a bit of extra milk as desired.

The pumpkin pancake batter will be thick–you can thin with a bit of extra milk as desired.

We served with toasted walnuts and maple syrup, side of bacon. They were spicy (not overly, even with that much seasoning, but if your pumpkin pie spice is fresh, back it off a bit and smell the batter first), warm, and wonderfully orange. They aren’t as crispy as some pancakes, but they were fluffy and filling.

Beware, these pancakes are addictive, reasonably nutritious, and available year-round. What’s your favorite pancake adaptation?

Send your pumpkins, questions, and food challenges to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

Coming up Sunday: Weekly Menus on the Road!

3 Comments

Filed under Recipes

Weekly Menus: Week of 11/18/2012

Gentle Readers, this post comes to you while The Practical Cook is deep into field research in New York. So planning menus is somewhat difficult. Plus, this marks the week when so many Americans will be cooking at home, in some cases for the first time this year.

Some thoughts: don’t panic, enlist help, don’t try to make everything.

With those directives in mind, here are the weekly menus:

Weekly Menus: 11/18/2012

Weekly Menus: 11/18/2012

And the Four-Square Shopping List:

The Four-Square Grocery List: 11/18/2012

The Four-Square Grocery List: 11/18/2012

Which all means:

Sunday: Dine Out in NYC

Monday: Salad
After traveling, I’m crave simplicity.

Tuesday: Tomato Soup and Sandwiches
I’m working on a piece about doctored soups. This will be the second round of trials. There’s a point where it’s too hard to convert the soup and easier to make it, that’s what I’m testing for!

Wednesday: Pizza and Salad
The simplest solution to the pre-Thanksgiving warm-up.

Thursday: Turkeyless Thanksgiving
Yeah, I said it out loud.

Friday: Leftovers
With a list of carbs that long, why cook more food? I am a big advocate of repackaging. It’s a great opportunity to make soup or transform leftovers into a roll-up. Cranberry sauce is a powerful connector.

Saturday: Dine Out!

What’s on the menu for you this week? (I will fully admit that I’ll be craving Indian or Chinese after Friday, anything but leftovers!) Post a comment below, I’m listening!

Send your queries, questions, and quips to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

Coming up Wednesday, One Ingredient, Three Ways: Cranberry Edition.

2 Comments

Filed under Weekly Menus