Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Duck Pot Pie with Sweet Potato

Sorry this recipe is a bit delayed. I've been cooking so much recently but have hardly had time to post anything! Anyway, my friends in my musical theater group will recognize this pot pie because I spent a day preparing to make it, only to realize I had a 3 hour rehearsal that night and would have to delay the meal. I was quite traumatized by this, but was fortunately free to bake and eat this delicious pot pie the next day.

I had an urge to make meat pot pie after my mom sent me a picture of a yummy-looking chicken pot pie she made earlier this month. (We swap cooking stories a lot.) I knew I wanted to use sweet potato, and after much thought I set my mind on duck as the meat for this unique pie. I walked down to Chinatown with Dylan and my roommate Katie to get dim sum and hunt for duck meat. Fortunately, I was able to buy half a cooked duck in a little shop directly across from the restaurant we found. The most time consuming aspect of this recipe was picking the duck meat off the bone, but once that's over the rest is easy and the final product very delicious!

Duck Pot Pie with Sweet Potato
Serves: 8  Prep: 30 minutes  Total: 1 hour, 15 minutes

1/2 duck (approximately 3 cups duck meat)
1 ready-rolled pastry puff
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 cups carrots, chopped
1 1/2 cups mushroom, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cups frozen peas
1 tbs thyme
6 tbs butter
6 tbs flour
4 cups low-fat milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
1 egg (optional)

Remove duck meat from the bone with a small knife or by hand. Be sure to remove small bones and all excess fat from the meat. Set aside.
Combine sweet potato, carrots, mushroom, onion, peas and thyme in a large saucepan. Fill with water up to the top of the vegetables. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the potato is slightly softened. Drain and let cool.
In a medium pot, melt butter on medium-high heat and add flour to begin the b├ęchamel sauce. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the mixture is golden and thickened. Heat the milk separately and add in 4 different increments, bring to a boil and let simmer. Add the salt and nutmeg and remove from heat.
In a large baking dish, combine vegetables, duck meat and the b├ęchamel sauce. Cover with pastry puff and brush a whisked egg on top for an egg wash if desired. Cover in foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove and cool before serving.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pumpkin and Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

It's been a very beautiful fall in Boston so far (...minus the snowstorm on Halloween weekend, but let's forget about that). Luckily I live in an area with parks and plenty of trees, which means I still get to enjoy the changing of leaves. There are so many leaves left! I'm sure by the time I come back from Thanksgiving break they'll be gone, so I need to enjoy them while they last.

Some of my wonderful friends had a "Fall Festival" party this weekend, so I decided this was a perfect excuse to try a new pumpkin dessert. They had pumpkin pancakes, bagels with pumpkin cream cheese, and apple pie shots (all delicious, by the way). It was a great addition to an awesome weekend following a very stressful week. I find it humorous that people are so grateful when I show up somewhere with food. I don't think my friends realize that if I didn't have them to help me eat the things I bake, I wouldn't end up baking at all. So thanks, guys!


Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Bars 
(Adapted from Martha Stewart Recipes*)
Makes: 16 bars  Prep: 30 minutes  Total: 3 hours, 30 minutes

1 9-ounce package chocolate teddy grahams (or graham cracker equivalent)
1 1/4 cup brown sugar (divided)
1/4 cup butter
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
1 cup organic pumpkin
3 eggs
3 tbs flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
5 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Begin making the graham cracker crust by crushing teddy grahams (or graham crackers) in a bag with a rolling pin into very fine crumbs. Pour into a bowl and mix with 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup softened butter. Press into the bottom of a greased baking dish and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine softened cream cheese, 1 cup brown sugar, and organic pumpkin. Mix until softened. Add eggs and flour and stir until the eggs are fully incorporated. Season with salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger.
Place semisweet chocolate chips in a microwaveable bowl and heat in 30-second increments, stirring in between, until melted.
Pour half the cheesecake mixture over the graham cracker crust and spread evenly. Combine the melted chocolate with the remaining cheesecake mix and stir once or twice. Pour in small dollops into the prepared pan and using a butter knife, very carefully swirl the chocolate and cheesecake in a figure eight pattern to create a nice design.
Bake for 45 minutes at 350. Remove and let cool. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours prior to serving.

*I found the original recipe on Martha Stewart, but made some changes to the cheesecake mix and used my own graham cracker crust. View the link above for the original recipe.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pumpkin Baked Ziti

For those of you who don't know me personally, I'm somewhat holiday-obsessed. Every Halloween, I carve pumpkins. Every Easter, I dye Easter eggs. And every time Christmas rolls around, you bet I'm sitting on the floor of my apartment cutting out paper snowflakes instead of studying for finals. Many of my friends say they hate holidays, and that after childhood the excitement wears away and the fun is gone. Maybe I'm just 9-years old at heart, but I think I will always perform these rituals because I grew up with them, they connect me to home, and make me feel closer to the people around me. Call me lame, but while the holiday naysayers are complaining, I'm skipping around having the time of my life!

I concocted this dish about two weeks in advance before my Halloween party, and it came out just as I'd hoped. I've never been a big marinara fan, so I created my own pasta sauce using organic pumpkin, vegetable broth, onion, cream, brown sugar, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. I made 2 pounds of pasta to serve a big group of people, but scaled down the recipe for 1 pound which can easily feed a family, small group of friends, or a single person who loves leftovers! I guess cannibalistic pumpkins can eat it, too?

Pumpkin Baked Ziti
Serves: 4-6 people  Prep: 40 minutes  Total: 1 hour, 10 minutes

1 lb whole wheat rotini pasta
1 yellow onion
1/2 tbs brown sugar
1/2 tbs nutmeg
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 15-ounce can organic pumpkin
1 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tbs fresh thyme
10-ounces gruyere cheese (shredded)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

Cook rotini in a large pot as directed until al dente. Strain and set aside.
Dice onion and saute in olive oil on medium heat until tender, about 3 minutes. Add brown sugar, nutmeg and cayenne pepper and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in pumpkin and vegetable broth, bring sauce to a boil and simmer uncovered on low heat for 15 minutes. Pour in heavy cream and stir well. Add thyme and simmer for another 20 minutes. When the sauce is done, remove from heat and let sit.
Begin assembling the zita by layering a greased baking dish with half of the rotini pasta, half of the sauce, and half of gruyere. Again, layer half the pasta, sauce and gruyere. Top with parmesan and bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the cheese is fully melted and the top is slightly browned.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Happy November, everyone! I can't believe how fast this semester is flying. In a little over 2 months I'll be moving out of Boston and working full time for Johnson & Johnson in New Jersey until July. So crazy how fast this is sneaking up on me! I had an amazing dinner party for Halloween with some girlfriends last night, and it made me even sadder to leave this city. I'm planning to squeeze in all the dinner parties I can before I move, so get excited for a lot more posts to come.

This was the main dish I served for the Halloween party my roommates and I threw yesterday evening. I woke up at 7 to put the pork in the slow cooker before my 8 am class, then took it out at 7 pm right before the party started to shred the meat and add the sauce. I swear by Dinosaur Bar-B-Que sauce, and since the original restaurant is in my hometown I'm a devoted fan.

Also, I definitely recommend cooking the pork for the full 12 hours because the meat literally melts in your mouth. Considering we fed about 12 girls (and 2 lucky boyfriends) I'd say this is the easiest and most delicious go-to party meal I can think of!

Here are some quick shots of the party:

Some of the girls
Snapshot of the dinner
Feeling a little full...
Dylan and me

Hope everyone else had a great Halloween weekend. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Makes: 12 sandwiches  Prep: 20 minutes  Total: 12 hours, 20 minutes

5-6 lbs pork shoulder
1 large onion
4 tbs red pepper flakes
4 tbs paprika
3 tbs salt
3 tbs pepper
2 19-ounce bottles of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que sauce
Sandwich buns

Slice the onion through the center to create large rings of onion. Lay in the bottom of the slow cooker.
Prepare BBQ rub by combining red pepper flakes, paprika, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pat the rub all over the pork shoulder, covering evenly. Place the pork on top of onion and fill the slow cooker two-thirds of the way with water.
Turn the slow cooker to low and leave on for 10-12 hours.
When the pork is done, remove from the slow cooker and shred with two forks. Place pulled pork in a large bowl and add 1 bottle of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que sauce. Mix well.
Dump most of the water and juice out of the cooker, leaving 1/4 cup and onions for flavor. Add the pulled pork back into the slow cooker and keep on low until ready to serve.
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