Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chili in Pumpkin Bowls

At the beginning of fall, way back in early-September, I had garnered quite a collection of pumpkin recipes to try this fall. I'd been fairly excited about this collection and had to use some willpower to wait until fall actually started to try the recipes.

Well, I've been crossing pumpkin recipes left and right on my list, and unfortunately they've been one disappointment after another. First was the pumpkin pie brownie cupcakes that had me drooling as I read the ingredients and came out tasting a bit like rubber sprinkled with cinnamon. Then came the pumpkin whoopie pies whose texture reminded me of a sponge, only mushier and softer. There was that promising pumpkin blondie that seemed like the epitome of a pumpkin desert, with added pecans and a copious amount of pumpkin pie spice, and turned out strangely pliable and bendable, and not in a good way.

Then on another blog, I caught sight of chili put inside a pumpkin bowl. The pumpkin was scooped out, cleaned, then baked before adding the chili, making the pumpkin edible, something you scoop along with a spoonful of hot chili. There was something about the idea of putting something hot and savory inside a pumpkin to be eaten together that made me bookmark the page and write the recipe on my "Pumpkin Recipes to Try" list.

And in the spirit of Halloween, I decided to make this recipe tonight for my mom and me. Strangely, my confidence was not dampened by my long string of failed pumpkin recipes. How can anyone go wrong with putting chili inside of a pumpkin?

For this recipe, I tried a vegetarian black bean chili recipe that I've been eying for quite a time and used the pumpkin picked by my sister at a farm. The chili was delicious scooped with soft pieces of pumpkin and sprinkled with crunchy tortilla chips. It was hot and filling, with just a kick of heat from the peppers and chili powder. The savory of the chili blended in perfectly with the slightly sweet meat of the pumpkin. My mom and I shared a pumpkin bowl and scraped out the pumpkin, eating every last drop of the chili.

Black Bean Chili in Pumpkin Bowls

3 mini pumpkins
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
3 cans 15.5 oz black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes, liquid included
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp oregano

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Take mini pumpkins and slice the top off about 3/4 of the way up. Scoop out insides of the pumpkin using a grapefruit spoon.
3. Brush insides with olive oil and sprinkle on salt and pepper.
4. Put pumpkins, without their tops, on a large baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. While they're roasting in the oven, make the chili.
5. Heat oil in a large heavy pan over medium heat.
6. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent.
7. Add the peppers and saute until tender.
8. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Add some water or broth if you like your chili slightly soupy.
9. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until thick.
10. Remove pumpkins from oven and fill the bowls 3/4 way full with chili.
11. Place pumpkins back into the oven, without their tops, and bake for another 30 minutes.
12. Once cooked, turn off oven and leave pumpkins in the oven with lid on to stay warm. They will stay hot in the oven for another hour if necessary.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes

How is it already late-October? It seems just yesterday I went for a swim in the neighborhood pool under the piping hot sun. Now, I'm sitting snugly by the computer, clutching a mug of hot tea while outside, the wind blows the trees into a bow. Cloudy gray skies have replaced the brilliantly blue ones; the once verdant leaves are now a mosaic of yellow, brown, and red. I threw together a rough list of things I want to do and eat this fall.

Things to Do and Eat This Fall
1. pumpkins! (boy do I have a lot of pumpkin recipes to try)
2. dark nail polish
3. soups and stews
4. butternut squash
5. long walks around my neighborhood
6. sweatpants
7. kale

I wanted to make a dent in my pumpkin recipe collection and was going to share a pumpkin pie brownie cupcake that was vegan, to boot. However, the cupcake didn't work. It just tasted so...blah. The brownie batter was rubbery and tasted only faintly of chocolate. The pumpkin layer on top was okay, but actually tasted better raw.

I decided to put aside my pumpkin recipes for now, anyways, and try cinnamon apple cupcakes. The original recipe is actually a coffee cake, but I decided to make cupcakes instead. That way, I can cut the recipe in half and make smaller portions. These cinnamon apple cupcakes are pretty good. They're moist with the cream cheese and speckled with chunks of apples. Cinnamon sugar is sprinkled on top, creating a slightly crunchy top layer. It's not something I'd make again, but today, when I made a failed mushroom risotto and the dirty dishes piled in the kitchen sink, one of those cupcakes kind of hit the spot.

Cinnamon Apple Cupcakes
adapted from Cookinglight

1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup stick butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces block-style cream cheese, softened (about 3/4 cup)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups chopped, unpeeled Granny Smith apple (about 2 large)
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Beat 1 1/2 cups sugar, butter, vanilla, and cream cheese at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended (about 4 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, beating at low speed until blended.

3. Combine 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon. Combine 2 tablespoons cinnamon mixture and apple in a bowl, and stir apple mixture into batter. Pour batter into an 8-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray, and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon mixture.

4. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. Cool the cake completely on a wire rack, and cut using a serrated knife.

Note: You can also make this cake in a 9-inch square cake pan or a 9-inch springform pan; just reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes.

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