POM Party: The Aftermath

Did you know that November is National Pomegranate Month?

Last night I hosted my POM Wonderful dinner party, and I am happy to report it was a big success. I and ten of my friends enjoyed pomegranate-infused food, delicious POM mojitos, and great conversation. I even met one of my favorite food bloggers, Brittany from Eating Bird Food. She posted a great recap of the event over on EBF.

The celebration will continue throughout this week as I post daily recipes of all the food featured in my four course menu, along with event photos and fun facts about POM. I, for one, am very excited to share all that I have learned this week!

sweet apron, right?

Before I sort through the photos and the juice-splattered recipes, I still have to deal with the party aftermath.

A few pounds of arils…

A neat row of clean dishes. . .

A giant stack of dirty dishes. . .

And a beautiful fall day to distract me!

Stay tuned for a whole week of pomegranate fun!

To kick things off, a simple recipe. Sometimes it’s fun to have dessert first.

Pomegranate Whipped Cream

For a crowd. . . serves 16!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons POM 100% pomegranate juice

Preparation:

In a large bowl, whip the cream and sugar with an electric hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Mix in vanilla extract. While mixing, add pomegranate juice slowly. Be sure not to add too much juice or the cream will become too thin. I have found that 2 tablespoons works well with this amount of cream.

Enjoy on top of cake, pie, and hot chocolate!

The “I Can’t Resist Posting About Pumpkin” Post

I love this time of year – have I said that before?

I always enjoy the transition to fall ingredients, especially the sudden abundance of pumpkin. I usually celebrate with pumpkin-flavored lattes, beers, and of course pie. This year, I am inspired to use pumpkin even more. I am looking forward to snagging my Mom’s pumpkin soup recipe and making it on my own for the first time. I would also like to take a crack at this pumpkin coconut curry I have heard so much about. And there is a spicy fall stew baked in a pumpkin that I have wanted to make for two years. 2010 might be the year that I go for it.

For now, I am experimenting with a big can of 100% pumpkin puree. I am finding that it isn’t just for pie and that it’s a great ingredient to have in your pantry this time of year. Here are two ways that I used pumpkin puree today.

Maple Pumpkin Oatmeal with Walnuts

It is about to start raining here again for a few days. It isn’t always easy to jump out of bed in the morning when you are cozy under your covers and listening to the soft patter of the rain on the windows. This oatmeal is definitely worth the few minutes of extra preparation (a little more prep and a little less sleep).

Ingredients:

1/2 cup oats

1 cup water

2-3 Tbsp canned pumpkin puree

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

1 Tbsp maple syrup (or 2 Tbsp if you have a sweet tooth)

A palmful of walnut pieces

Preparation:

1. Mix the oats, water, pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and maple syrup in a microwave safe bowl or mug.

2. Microwave on high for 2.5-3 minutes or until cooked.

3. Top with walnuts and enjoy!

This is also tasty with the addition of a handful of raisins. I can’t wait to try it with chocolate chips too.

Pumpkin Coffee Smoothie

This is a great way to get that delicious pumpkin latte taste on the days that a cold beverage would be more satisfying than a big mug of pumpkin spice. In Central Virginia, we tend to have warm weather throughout October and I am not always in the mood for a hot drink. This was so fast and easy to make that I prepared it in about 5 minutes on my lunch break then hopped in my car to head back to the office. My coworkers looked at me kind of funny when I told them what I was drinking, but I think they were just jealous.

Ingredients:

1 cup cold coffee

1/3 cup milk

3-4 Tbsp canned pumpkin puree

1 Tbsp brown sugar (oh yes…)

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp cinnamon

3-4 ice cubes

Preparation:

Combine ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Add one straw. Bliss.

Baking FAIL Turned Happy Hour

So a few weeks ago I attended my first Pampered Chef party, and my loot recently arrived! The arrival of my Pampered Chef goodies coincided with a large purchase from the farmers’ market that happened to include a large quantity of peaches. I do not bake often because I don’t really have a knack for it, but I was itching to use my new measuring spoons and cooling racks last weekend. I have had a few baking successes in the past, notably fresh peach scones and chocolate drizzled cranberry almond biscotti. Go figure, my baking triumphs have all occurred with foods traditionally paired with coffee or tea – coincidence?

I should have used the peaches to make fresh peach scones.

But I had been thinking about bourbon peach hand pies from Smitten Kitchen.

I decided to just go for it.

The recipe presented various challenges, including several chilling cycles that required me to return the ingredients or the dough to the refrigerator or freezer before proceeding with the recipe. It also called for tools that I do not own, so I had to improvise. Being an occasional baker, I am used to substituting some tools for other tools. On more than one occasion, I have rolled out dough with a wax paper covered wine bottle because I don’t own a rolling pin.
Everything was going great with my new measuring spoons.

I mixed together the first few ingredients and cut LOTS of butter into LOTS of small pieces.

This is going to be good.

The recipe required that I put the bowl of dry ingredients and the bowl of butter in the freezer. This of course required a total rearrangement of my freezer. If your freezer is anything like mine, there is no way you have room for two mixing bowls without doing a little rearranging. I eventually got them to fit.

Have you ever tried cutting butter into flour without a pastry blender? How about cutting frozen butter into frozen flour without a pastry blender?

You do it with two butter knives and it takes eons. I had to pull a stool up to the kitchen counter about halfway through because I thought my legs would give out. I finally finished cutting in the butter and added the liquid ingredients to form a dough. Now we’re getting somewhere!

After an hour in the refrigerator, the cold dough came out and on to my large cutting board. I started to roll it out with a wine bottle and I ran into problems. No matter how much flour I used, I could not get the dough rolled out without it sticking to everything. I rolled, gathered into a ball, and re-rolled. Over and over again. I couldn’t get it right. It was now late and I was tired and I gave up. I re-rolled the dough into a ball and put it in the freezer. The recipe said it would keep for a month. Maybe I will try again later.

So at about 10:00 PM, much to mine and Kyle’s dismay, I decided we were not having bourbon peach hand pies for dessert. Luckily I had another idea. This one had been waiting in the beer fridge just for this occasion.

Enter Southern Tier Crème Brulee Stout.

When you can’t eat dessert, why not drink it instead?

This imperial milk stout is dark black with a tan head and smells overwhelmingly like vanilla beans. Once I got used to the vanilla, I picked up on the caramel. It was not a caramel syrup smell or a caramel candy smell. It smelled very much like burnt sugar and definitely prepped me for the crème brulee taste of this beer. One sip and I was definitely aware that I was drinking dessert. This might be the sweetest beer I have ever tasted. It is dark, rich, and tastes like vanilla caramel sugary milky goodness. I was happy to split this bottle with Kyle because I don’t think I could drink a full one myself.

I don’t know if I will pick this one up again, but it is worth a first try. If you are a crème brulee fan and a beer fan, I think you should taste it, if only to marvel at how spot-on Southern Tier is with the taste of this beer. Now I know that when my own dessert experiments don’t turn out, I can count on this brewery to serve up a successful one in a bottle.

Plum and Nectarine Galette

I’m a lover, not a fighter. And I’m a cooker, not a baker. Most days.

But then there are the times that I get a little fight in me, and there are the times that I get the urge to tie on my cupcake apron and make doughy, buttery, sugary magic.

One such rare occasion happened this week, when I woke up to the sound of pouring rain and a deep chill from the persistent bedroom air conditioner, and as I dragged my bleary-eyed self to the shower, I was compelled to create my first galette. And my in-the-shower ideas, while quite random, are always my best ideas of all. Inspired by a nectarine galette from smitten kitchen that I had bookmarked months ago, and enticed by a bowl of fresh plums that I had stashed in the fridge days ago, I was obsessed with the idea of making my own fresh fruit galette.

I started the day in a baking mood and day-dreamed about the impending marriage between the plums and nectarines in my kitchen as I picked up my morning cappuccino. As I walked into my office, I did a mental inventory of my wine rack and decided which bottle would make a suitable temporary replacement for the rolling pin that I lost in my last apartment move. As the rain poured down and work poured in, I took a deep breath, listened to the soothing rumble of thunder that echoed outside, and thought about kneading dough.

Ah, much better.

By 7:00 PM I was cutting butter into flour, and once I finished rolling out the dough, I popped open the chianti filled rolling pin and sliced some fruit. I adapted the recipe here by substituting plums for half the nectarines, substituting walnuts for almonds, and using about half the added sugar.

And I didn’t burn it!

You can call it a galette, a free form pie, or a rustic tart. Kyle called it a fruit pizza, which works just as well. This recipe gets points in my book because it is really adaptable – the combinations are endless – and easy enough for even an occasional baker to pull off.

I am sure it won’t be long before another combination of ideal ingredients falls into my lap and the mood strikes to wrap them in pastry dough. I already have ideas for my next galette (and my next batch of scones. . . and my next dinner party dessert. . .) but for now I am saving them for another rainy day.