Thursday, October 27, 2011

Feeding Friendship: Stuffed Pumpkin

This round of Feeding Friendship features:
I'll tell you right now, I'm a BIG fan of October/Halloween/Fall. There are SO many fun things going on! Football, costumes, cooler weather, and of course - MY BIRTHDAY! (Perhaps I'm a little biased...) Needless to say I was very excited about the secret ingredient being pumpkin! I love pumpkin everything! Pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin frozen custard, pumpkin cheesecake, and so on. I bookmarked recipes for a week before deciding on this one. It doesn't get much better than actually cooking inside the pumpkin!

My dish was based on this one from Epicurious. (Note: the recipe says to bake for 2 hours. I saw this when I put it in the oven at 7 and freaked out. I took mine out at just over an hour and I'm alive to tell about it. I can see how it might have been better at 2 hours, but it was still awesome after 75 min or so.) Here's my version:

1  4-5 lb pumpkin (I used pie pumpkin, I couldn't find anything definitive about what type of pumpkin is best in such a dish)
Leftover bread (I used about 4 dinner rolls)
~1 c  chopped celery*
~1 c  chopped carrots*
1  cooked chicken breast, shredded*
 2-4 garlic cloves (I think I used 3, which was plenty)
1/4 lb  Gruyere cheese, cut into 1/4" cubes
1/2 c  chopped fresh chives
1-2 tsp  chopped fresh thyme
1/2-1 c  heavy cream
Salt and pepper

*If you're anything like me you hate seeing "cooked" anything in the ingredients list. The day before I made this slow cooker shredded chicken. 6 breasts yielded enough meat for dinner that night, this dish, and one other dish later in the week. I used the carrots and celery with the chicken, too, so I just chopped extra to add to the pumpkin!


Pre-heat the oven to 350-degrees
1) Cut a hole in the top of the pumpkin a la jack-o-lantern carving
Had to throw a scary one in. It's almost Halloween!

2) Clean the seeds and strings off the cap and inside the pumpkin.
This is me doing my least favorite part of pumpkin carving.
Mike retrieved the actual pumpkin carving tools we have and helped me finish!
Save those seeds! We're going to do something special with them later...

3) Add salt and pepper to the inside of the pumpkin to give it some flavor.
4) Mix together the bread, cheese, celery, carrots, chicken, herbs and garlic in a bowl. Season with a little salt and pepper.
5) STUFF it into the pumpkin! (I may or may not have had some extras and I may or may not have eaten them!)
 6) Replace the cap and place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake on 350 for 1.5-2 hours. Remove lid for the last 20 min or so to brown the top.

7) To serve, scoop pumpkin bits in with the filling and stir around.

As for those seeds we reserved, rinse them off and let them dry on a baking sheet overnight. (NOT a paper towel, they'll stick to it!) Toss them in some olive or canola oil to coat and then sprinkle on some kosher salt. Bake at 250-degrees for an hour and 15 minutes. Voila!
A delicious, healthy snack! I even added a few to my salad!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Wild Chicken Chase

I was in Birmingham last week for a conference (on my birthday, no less!). I had a great time and it was fun to meet up with colleagues and hear the talks. Mike picked me up from the airport Wednesday night. After the welcome home hug and kiss he said "I have some bad news, kinda." UH OH! What happened?! He went on, "I can't find Omelet." It was dark and poor Mike works such long hours that he leaves the house before the sun comes up and gets home after it sets. This is not optimal for caring for chickens. He told me about how he'd searched the entire backyard with a flashlight and still couldn't find her, but he was positive he saw her that morning. I told him not to worry about it and we'd look together when we got home. As we were looking, we found a pile of black feathers next to the Fowlamo. Yep, something got her. We weren't sure what, but we at least established that it was Ana who was missing, not Omelet. 

The next morning, I went out to check on the chickens and I heard one squawking that wasn't one of the two in front of me. It was Ana! I ran into the alley behind our house to see if I could tell where she was. That didn't help so I went back into our yard and peered through the fence to the neighbor's yard. There she was! No problem! I'll just go over there later this morning and get her back! Perfect! I rang the doorbell about 10am with no answer. I left a note, "Saw you found our chicken! Here's my number, call me and I'll come take her back."

Hours went by with no call. Of course not. It's Thursday. They're at work. I checked again before heading to a function that evening. Still no answer. Mike left the function early and I asked if he could knock on the door and see if he could get Ana back. 

When I came home, Mike informed me that there was still no answer and our note was still on the door. However, there was a 2nd note from our across the street neighbors saying they, too, had lost a chicken and were wondering if it was theirs (an e-mail had been sent out to the neighborhood saying a chicken was found and being kept at our neighbors house). We really need to get to know our neighbors better.

The next day I tried ringing the bell again, but a bit earlier while I saw a car in the driveway. No answer and I didn't see or hear Ana in the backyard anymore. Around 4pm, I got a call from a guy who said he's friends with our neighbor and he had found and captured Ana.  A woman who lives on the next block over had responded to his e-mail and said she also has chickens and would take ours in until the owner was contacted (the more I think about this the less I understand why he didn't a) call me, b) knock on our door, or c) toss the chicken over our fence). He gave me her number and I called her. Well, apparently Ana didn't get along with her chickens so she put Ana in her neighbor's yard. She gave me her neighbor's number. I called him after running a couple errands to allow him some time to get home from work. He was there and I drove over immediately and brought her home.

Mission: Accomplished

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Girls' Weekend!

A couple months ago, Ellie mentioned that she had a conference in the Virginia Beach area and was going to see if our friend, Sarah, who lives in DC would like to join her. There's a chance I may have invited myself, but for the purpose of this story, we'll say Ellie invited me to come along. 

Ellie and I flew into DC on Thursday night (October 6th) and Sarah picked us up at the airport before whisking us away to Old Town Alexandria (which might be 10 minutes away from Regan Int'l). We ate at an awesome pizza place (very reminiscent of Il Vicino for those of you who are lucky enough to have eaten there) and then went back to Sarah's place. I had never been there so I got the grand tour. They have a very lovely home in south Alexandria which they purchased within a month of when we bought our home in San Antonio. 
Sarah shows off her very beautiful kitchen!
 The next morning we had breakfast with my mom before hitting the road to Hampton, VA. There was talk of going to Colonial Williamsburg. We saw that it cost about $45 and we decided we could put that money to better use at the Williamsburg Primium Outlet Stores. And so we did. We hit up Nine West and Anne Taylor and I think everyone was pleased with their purchases.

On Saturday, Ellie was speaking at her conference so Sarah and I were on our own. Lucky for us, the hotel was right across the street from an outdoor mall. We grabbed some breakfast at Panera before doing a bit more shopping. Seeing as it was OU/TX weekend, it was sort of necessary that I watched them game. After finding some uninspiring sports bars on Yelp, we remembered we could go back to the room and watch it! The right team one and by the time we'd scoped out some dinner places Ellie was done for the day and we headed down to Norfolk for dinner.

We ate at a cute little place near the Medical Center. We shared a bottle of wine and lots of fun memories. After dinner we decided we should see what Granby St. was all about since most of the nightlife establishments seemed to be located here. After witnessing some rowdy protesters barreling down the street (we originally thought they were part of the Occupy movement, but later decided they were a religious organization), we ducked into a little Irish pub on the corner. We unknowingly took a seat at a table too close to the stage and later garnished unwanted attention from the Irish guy who sang traditional Irish tunes accompanied by his guitar and some rockin' midi background music.

On Sunday, we headed to Virginia Beach to hike in the marshland of First Landing State Park. We figured we hiked about 7-7.5 miles. There was some very cool scenery including lots of Spanish Moss:
 Beautiful view of the bay:

 And pretty beaches:
 We were pretty exhausted when we got home so after we all got cleaned up we went to Target to get some wine. (And do some more shopping, of course. It is girls weekend after all.) On the way to Target we had seen a restaurant that had fire pits on the patio. We decided to stop there to get some food before going back to the hotel. 
On Monday morning Sarah and I dropped Ellie off at the airport in Norfolk before heading back to DC. We had lunch with my mom and I moved my luggage from Sarah's car to my mom's before Mom took me back to see her condo. Mom also lives in Alexandria in a very pretty high rise.
I reminded Mom that, although I've been to DC many times before, I'd never been to see the monuments. With that we hopped on the metro to go tour the monuments at dusk. Here are some pretty pictures I took with my new camera!

Mom in the WWII memorial looking back to the Washington monument.

Kansas portion of the WWII memorial.

Lincoln memorial

Unfortunately the reflecting pool was being renovated.

New Martin Luther King Jr. memorial.

I had to return to Texas on Tuesday, but it was a really great trip and fun to catch up with Sarah and my mom!