Toasted pumpkin seeds

Here’s a Halloween treat for you. If you are carving pumpkins, you can save the seeds and toast them for a great snack.

Toasted pumpkin seeds

1 cup pumpkin seeds, rinsed of any goop
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or peanut oil, if you have it)
1/4 teaspoon salt

The first step is to dry the seeds out. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Spread out the seeds on a lined baking sheet and pop them in the oven. It takes about an hour at this temperature.

After the seeds have dried and cooled, switch to a shallow pan on the stovetop. Turn it up to about medium heat and add the oil. Once it’s nice and hot, drop in the pumpkin seeds and sprinkle on the salt. Keep stirring the seeds — they will whistle and maybe even pop, and eventually start to turn brown. Once most of them have some browning on them, turn off the heat. All done!

You can see the difference between dried seeds (right) and toasted ones (left).

If you want a sweet snack, you can make these:

Sweet and salty pumpkin seeds
adapted from Martha Stewart

1 cup pumpkin seeds
4 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil

You start the same way, by drying out the seeds in the oven at 250.

Mix up 3 tablespoons of sugar and the spices in a bowl.

Then heat up the oil in a shallow pan, add 1 tablespoon of sugar and the seeds. Keep stirring until the seeds are a little brown and caramelized. Then transfer the seeds to the bowl of spices and toss to coat them.

These are super yummy, but I can’t eat too many of them without going into a sugar coma.

Happy Halloween!

Road trip: Rockaway Beach

This was kind of an early birthday treat. Mike found this little beach in Pacifica that was the perfect place for a sunny day picnic. The waves were probably the biggest I’ve seen so far here, so there were a lot of surfers in the water. I put my feet in for just a little bit, but it was freeeezing!

Chicken pot pie

The last time I made pot pies was in early 2006. The reason I remember it so distinctly is because I had just moved back to Des Moines from Colorado, and I didn’t have a job yet. So I was making all kinds of comfort foods. I picked Ina Garten’s recipe for veggie pot pies even though it was far more labor intensive than the recipes I normally made. It took me something like 2 1/2 hours to make, and the next day I came down with bronchitis and laryngitis and was sick for two weeks.

Soooo, fast forward to now. I wanted to make a nice comforting pot pie using chicken left over from a baked chicken.

But this time I wanted it to be a little easier, so I decided to use frozen puff pastry instead of making my own pastry topper. I did find another recipe from Ina, which was a great place to start. I added a bunch of veggies I had around the house and took out the little onions, because I don’t love their flavor.

I’d say this recipe was a total home run. It’s warm and bubbly and comforting, and the puff pastry comes out so flaky and delicious with basically no work at all. You could easily split this up into four bowls with their own crusts on top. Or you can change the veggies based on what you have in the kitchen. One thing I also took from the original veggie recipe was to add saffron to the mix. It’s just a little bit of something different to make this even more special.

Chicken pot pie
adapted from Barefoot Contessa

Meat from half a baked chicken, cubed (recipe here)
-you could also use 2 large chicken breasts, baked with salt and pepper
5 cups chicken stock
1 chicken bouillon cube
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 a fall squash, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
4 small golden potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
1 yam, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
1 10-ounce package/2 cups frozen peas
pinch of saffron
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 sheets frozen puff pastry

Before you do anything else, take out the puff pastry sheets to thaw. By the time you get finished prepping everything else, they should be soft enough to work with.

Then start chopping all your veggies. Heat up a big stock pot over medium and start melting the butter. Then you can throw in your onions and celery and cook them until they are translucent. This is a good time to start preheating the oven to 375 degrees.

While those are cooking, heat up the chicken stock (either in the microwave or on the stovetop) and dissolve the bouillon cube in it. Add the flour to the onions and celery and stir it up so you get a nice paste.

Now you can add the hot chicken stock, salt, pepper, and saffron. Then add the rest of the veggies and stir in the cream.

Cover the pot and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. This helps the potatoes and squash get cooked all the way through. Then add the cubed chicken and peas and dump it all into a 9×13 baking dish.

Now you can gently place the puff pastry sheets on top of the casserole. I needed 1 1/3 sheets to cover the whole thing. You can also get creative here and do some kind of lattice top or leaf decorations or something.

Ugly presentation. But it tasted good.

Then just bake the whole thing for 1 hour. Let it cool a bit before you dig in.

Loving: scissor earrings

At my craft fair on Sunday I managed to trade for these lovely pairs of earrings from the seller across from me, Boobadeeboo.

I just couldn’t resist the ones that look like little sewing scissors!

There are all kinds of wonderful miniatures in earring form in her shop, so check it out.

Fall in California

There are a few signs that the seasons are changing here.

I got some flat pumpkins from Trader Joe’s. They make me happy.

My flowers are still blooming in all different colors.

And there are still tomatoes on the vine, although they are mostly green.

I bought some mums, but they died! However, my chives, thyme, and mint plants are all still doing very well.

On my walks it feels like summer and looks like spring. Unlike the summer, which was often chilly, fall is pretty warm. And flowers are blooming everywhere.

Every time I pass a fuschia plant I make a mental note to get one someday. They are too cool.

I love all the fruit trees. There’s a huge apple tree peeking out from behind the palms in this person’s yard.

Of course there’s all kinds of citrus fruit.

And figs!

Hands off, though…

There are berries, too.

I just noticed there’s a ladybug in there too.

I don’t know what the heck these are.

I even saw this guy selling fruit on a random corner.

I think strawberries are having a second season around here. They were only 89 cents a carton at the store last week.

There are spiders all over the place making the most incredible webs.

Palm trees still weird me out. But I will take them over shoveling snow.

And I will take this view anytime.

Well, after all of our walking, we are pooped.

But stay tuned — I have the most amazing recipe for chicken pot pie coming up!

Potato-leek soup with homemade croutons

Yesterday was kind of an epic day in the kitchen. I started off making Heidi Swanson’s recipe for oatcakes from Super Natural Every Day.

I’ve been getting a little bored with flapjacks, but wanted something similar to eat for snacks or breakfasts. The oatcakes turned out to be perfect. They’re somewhere in between a granola bar, a muffin, and a cookie — a little bit wholesome and a little bit sweet. All I can say is you must buy this cookbook!

I had some extra batter, so I made minis, too.

But onto the subject of this post — potato-leek soup. We got some leeks at the farmers market over the weekend, and I thought I would try making the classic soup combination. I cracked open “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” and sure enough there was a recipe. It’s unbelievably simple, actually.

I added cream and a few toppings, but you don’t have to. With veggie stock or water it’s a great vegan soup. I had about 2 cups of stock in the freezer, so I used that plus water for the rest.

Potato-leek soup
adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
3 medium (or 6 small) golden potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 big leeks, sliced into half moons
6 cups water, stock, or combination
8 ounces heavy cream (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional toppings: 4 slices bacon, crumbled, croutons, chopped chives

Heat the butter or oil in a big soup pot over medium and start cooking the potatoes and leeks with some salt and pepper.

Add the stock, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. I usually have to turn my heat down to low to keep it lightly bubbling.

At this point, you can leave the soup as-is, or make it creamier. I took about 2 cups of the soup and blended it up with my immersion blender, then added it back into the pot. You can do this with as much soup as you like, depending on how many potato chunks you want to keep.

Finally, add the cream, and let it cook for a few more minutes. Serve with yummy toppings.

I was thinking this soup might be good with some crispy homemade croutons, so I looked up a recipe for that, too. I was surprised to see that Bittman recommends cooking them on the stovetop rather than the oven. I’d never heard of that, but it totally works!

I used half of this lovely Italian batard from Acme Bread.

adapted from “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian”

1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 3/4-inch slices good bread, cut into cubes
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil and garlic in a big skillet, and just when the garlic starts to sizzle, drop in the bread cubes. Toss them around and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Keep tossing the cubes until they soak up the oil and start to brown. Turn off the heat before the garlic gets too burnt.

These were so good in the soup. Part of them stayed crunchy and part of them soaked up the broth.

Next time I might use butter instead of olive oil for better flavor, or maybe a combination of both. I will definitely be making these again.

Craft fair this weekend

This Sunday will be my last A Fair to Remember show of the season.

It hasn’t exactly been scarf-wearing weather around here (fall is actually quite warm in the bay area), but perhaps tourists will be buying for weather in cooler locales.

To be honest, I don’t do this show for the sales as much as I just love being part of such a cool event. Have I mentioned once or a hundred times how much I love north beach?

So this week I will be knitting away at some more organic cotton fingerless gloves and cute berets.

By the way, I was really excited to see my rope rug on Apartment Therapy! I am working on one right now, and that bad boy is heavy, but so much fun.

Sick soup (autumn minestrone)

After my family left, we all got sick. Every single one of us except for my dad has either a cold or a sinus infection.

Sad face.

So, instead of resting on Sunday I ran errands, made this soup, and worked on orders. I can’t seem to help myself.

This recipe comes from the Moosewood Daily Special cookbook, which is just packed with comforting soups. I thought about subbing chicken broth in this recipe since I have so much in my freezer. But the cleanse taught me that veggie soups can have really great depth of flavor on their own, so I left it out. And it turned out to be the right decision.

I also added one thing I learned from Rachael Ray, which is to use the leafy tops of celery when you cook. They have lots of flavor (they’re the greenest part of the whole stalk).

This soup is super healthy, full of the vitamins you need when you’re sick, and it uses a lot of fall veggies that are cheap right now. I bought an acorn squash so ripe it looked like a little pumpkin.

I served this with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, but that’s totally optional. Add a chunk of crusty bread or some saltines and you’re good to go.

Autumn minestrone

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups peeled and cubed winter squash (I used butternut and acorn)
2 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 1/2 cups golden potatoes, cubed (skins optional)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
8 cups water (it called for 6 but I needed more)
4 cups chopped kale leaves
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium. Add the onions and garlic and saute for 5 minutes. Add the squash, celery, carrots, potatoes, spices, and water, and cook them for another 10 minutes or so. Then add the kale and beans, turn down the heat if it’s bubbling too much, and simmer until everything is cooked through. It only takes about 20 minutes total, but I gave it probably more like 40 minutes just to let everything really blend together.

The only thing I might change next time would be to scale back a little on the kale. I have a thing about wilty greens — a little is fine, but I like the other veggies to be the focus.

The week in photos

Did you see my antique fridge/bar on Fresh Home? I am blogging for them now, along with their other “Fresh Faces.”

This pile of unstuffed poufs became a bunch of wholesale orders…when it rains, it pours.

Obligatory shot of a cute dog.

Poster of the week. Available here.

The cutest owlie. I will have tons of these at my next craft shows.

A little Berkeley color. I kind of want to make a poster out of this and frame it.

Charging station at the Oakland airport. I’m probably years away from having an electric car, but I still think this is so cool!

A foggy Golden Gate bridge. It looks like this more often than not.

Sea lions at Pier 39. Glad they’re back.

Road trip: Coppola winery

We had some visitors last weekend — my dad, stepmom, sister Megan, and Megan’s boyfriend. So we got to try another new place, Francis Ford Coppola’s winery up in Sonoma County. It’s really unlike any of the wineries we’ve been to so far, mostly because it is a lot bigger, and a lot more showbiz. But that’s why it’s so much fun.

Each side of the main building has these big pointy towers. Can’t miss ’em!

Outside there is a big pool with cabanas you can rent for the day. Next to the pool is a bandshell that’s modeled after the one in Godfather Part II.

There are indoor and outdoor restaurants, a museum where you can see Coppola’s Oscars,

and of course the beautiful vineyards, and the plant where they package up all the wines.

At the end of our tour we got to taste several wines, including one that was still in the fermenting process. My favorites were actually the Sofia wines. The rose comes in this curvy bottle,

and the blanc de blancs comes in a pretty pink wrapper that they always leave on while serving (you can’t remove Sofia’s dress!).

They’d both be great picnic wines. By the way, do you have BevMo where you live? Because it is awesome.

One of my favorite parts of the tour was getting to taste the grapes right off the vine.

Some of the grapes were shriveled because it’s late in the season.

We ate some zinfandel grapes, and they were really tasty. For some reason I thought that wine grapes weren’t supposed to taste good.

Overall, it was a great day, and I think everyone was glad we chose such a unique winery.

It was also fun to drive back a different route than we usually go, so we could decide which wineries we want to tour on our next trip!